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stress and men

Stress is the "wear and tear" the body goes through as it adjusts to the constantly changing environment. Anything that causes change in a person's life causes stress. Stress can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat. This is commonly known as the "fight or flight" response. The threat can be any situation that is seen as a danger. Common short-term stressors include:
  • noise
  • crowding
  • being isolated from others
  • illness
  • hunger
  • danger
  • infection
  • Imagining a threat or remembering a dangerous event can also evoke a stress response. Modern life frequently results in ongoing stressful situations. These may include:
  • difficult work or personal situations
  • loneliness
  • financial worries
  • the recent death of a family member or loved one
  • a move to a new home or change in job
  • physical illness, especially long-term conditions
  • difficulty sleeping or inability to obtain enough sleep
What is the information for this topic? 
Stress occurs all the time in most people's lives. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect physical and mental well-being. Stress decreases the quality of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and accomplishment. At some point in their lives, almost all people will go through stressful events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope. Financial concerns are one of the main stressors for a man. He is supposed to be able to "support" his family. In today's economy, a family living on a single income is rare. Most often the woman is working outside the home also. Job-related stress may increase the risk of heart disease. It appears to have a greater impact on a man's arteries than on a woman's. Men who report the most stress have almost five times the risk of having arteriosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. One temporary remedy to job stress may be stress-reduction exercises. Sometimes these techniques can be quite easy and simple. Taking a few minutes to practice relaxation or meditation can help to ease some of the stress. Taking a vacation, developing interests outside of work, and finding supportive friends who will listen can help to relieve stress. Sometimes, changes in the workplace or renegotiation of the demands of the job may be needed. This may require joining with other workers to document stressful conditions. More and more marriages are ending in divorce now. It is not uncommon for a man to find that he is the primary caregiver for his children, or that he has joint custody. This may involve a lot of changes for him. It can be very stressful until a routine is formed. This is especially true for a man who has not been able to be involved much in raising his children because of his job. There are support groups that a man can join to help him deal with these changes. Changes a man goes through in middle age may increase stress. A man may notice that his hairline is beginning to recede. If he is not active, he may gain weight. With increased stress, sexual function may be affected. Staying active, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep will help to decrease the stress. Exercising may decrease stress by increasing a person's health and giving them an outlet for relieving stress. For example, while walking a person may be able to put his situation and stress in perspective and think of ways to resolve the stress. A man is less likely to talk to a friend about problems than a woman. Men tend to keep their problems to themselves. Talking to someone can help to relieve the stress. Letting a man know that it is okay to discuss their problems or concerns is also important. Eliminating stress from life is impossible. However, stress management techniques can decrease some of the harmful effects of stress.

Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 11/11/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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