Why Do Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

why do men and women handle stress differently

The proof can be obvious from simple cultural observation as to why do men and women handle stress differently. How many times have you noticed a woman asking, “Are you all right?” Modern culture is replete with women seeming to have psychic powers when it comes to noticing when people are not at the top of their game. These “powers” come from close observation, which is something women are trained to do from birth. Stress reactions reveal themselves in common ways that women can sense.

According to uwhealth.org, women are more likely to handle stress by “tending and befriending” others. During the emotion-focused sharing session, women share what’s bothering them, and that seems to help initially with stressful situations. Men, however, tend to bottle up their emotions, and the logical conclusion is that men become more likely to develop mental illness.

That’s not always the case. The results create an interesting dynamic that doesn’t work as you’d expect. Women internalize their stress, which often leads to clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Men tend to externalize their feelings, and they deal with stress by taking their stress out on others. That makes them vulnerable to losing their tempers, committing violent acts and turning to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms.

Everyone Experiences Stress

Both men and women experience stress throughout their daily lives, but the gender differences are focused on stress triggers and how people respond to stress. Men and women are equally affected by stress, but the triggers can be vastly different. Women value social relationships, and when things go poorly in their social circle, it’s likely to trigger stress.

Men place a great deal of value in their independence, autonomy and sense of personal achievement. Stress triggers for most men are likely to include competition at work, losing out on a promotion or experiencing financial difficulties.

Learning How to Cope with Stress

Understanding what triggers stress is an overwhelming subject because there are hundreds of potential triggers, but learning some of the major triggers can help you deal with stress. It’s important to stress that the differences between men and women are general guidelines, but your personality might not match up well to generalizations.

Understanding yourself might seem new-agey, but the concept is especially relevant when trying to understand what triggers stress reactions in you. People often blame stress reactions on hormones, especially when stress affects women, but the truth is that three hormones play a critical role in your reactions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or woman because cortisol, epinephrine and oxytocin regulate blood pressure, blood sugar levels and immune functions, which define the physical reactions of stress.

Women and Hormonal Reactions

Men and women do react differently to stress, and the underlying cause is hormone production. The three major hormones involved with stress influence your mood, but not in the predicted way. Scientists initially thought that cortisol was primarily responsible for raising blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but it’s the combination of cortisol and epinephrine that triggers these responses.

Oxytocin lowers the immune system’s defense, and women respond to stress by releasing oxytocin. The oxytocin reduces the fight-or-flight response by countering the effects of cortisol and epinephrine. That hormonal trigger actually promotes nurturing emotions, but men suffer more when they experience stress because their oxytocin production remains stable.

Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Stress Now

Understanding the reasons behind your stress helps to control it, but practical steps to deal with especially troubling emotions can prove beneficial to your well-being. These include both mental and physical steps endorsed by an article posted at healthline.com:

Physical exercise releases endorphins, which are compounds that lower stress levels. Putting more stress on the body seems unlikely to reduce stress, but physical activity is well known to reduce mental anxiety. Exercise also improves the length and quality of your sleep, which resets the clock and helps you cope with myriad sources of stress in daily life.

Take Dietary Supplements
Taking dietary supplements can reduce stress by normalizing your physical reactions and increasing serotonin levels. Lemon balm is known for its calming effects, and omega-3 fatty acids improve physical performance while reducing anxiety and stress.

Yoga is recommended by most traditional medical practitioners as an excellent way to reduce physical and mental stress. The complexities of adjusting your positions serves to anchor you in the present moment, which can reduce anxiety and stress.

Deep Breathing
Breathing exercises slow the heart rate and focus your awareness on the simple act of breathing. That reduces worrying about your stress triggers and restores a balanced mental attitude.

Soothing Music or Sounds
You can put your stress behind you when listening to soothing tunes, the calming sounds of nature or even your favorite jazz band.

Just Say No
One of the biggest causes of stress is trying to satisfy friends, family members and work associates when they ask for favors. You can’t control some things that are required of you, but saying no to things you don’t want to do is your choice. Being selective can relieve tons of stress over the course of a week, month or year.

Reduce Caffeine Intake
It seems that caffeine makes it easier to cope with a large workload, but that’s the caffeine talking. Caffeine triggers a stress-like reaction, which temporarily seems beneficial. However, taking too much caffeine can leave you wired, stressed and privy to poor decision-making.

Using pleasant-smelling scents to calm you and reduce stress is called aromatherapy, and it’s a medically accepted treatment for stress. Scents that are known for their soothing properties include lavender, bergamot, rose, chamomile, frankincense and orange blossom. Aromatherapy works as well for men as women.

Concluding Thoughts

You can also take inspiration and advice from famous quotations about stress. Two especially effective quotes come from lollydaskal.com, and they describe the following insights:

  1. The Viggo Mortensen quote praises the tortoise and the hare approach. Taking things slowly, one step at a time, proves to get things done faster with less stress.
  2. Srikumar Rao urges acceptance of things you can’t change as the ultimate key to dealing with stress. When you really accept that there’s nothing to be done, stress disappears.

Why do men and women handle stress differently? It’s a combination of physiological differences and cultural issues. Men and women have different triggers for stress, but that doesn’t preclude using similar strategies to cope with anxiety. Understanding some of the issues can help you deal with the mental aspects of stress, and the recommended methods listed above are just a few of the possibilities for dealing with the physical side of stress.


[1] https://www.uwhealth.org/news/stress-and-gender-the-differences-in-coping/44728

[2] https://www.webmd.com/women/features/stress-women-men-cope

[3] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#16.-Spend-time-with-your-pet