Men vs. Women: Differences in Managing Stress

Category: Men vs. Women Series

Stress cartoon by Randy Glasbergen

Managing stress is one of our biggest challenges in life. There will be stress: that’s a given. There will be tough times: that’s a given. And, there will be good times, too. But most every circumstance will lead to a changed one, whether good or bad. Men and women approach most things in gender-specific fashion as I’ve detailed in this ongoing blog series. Stress is no exception.

Stress symptoms infographic

I will again state my disclaimer that much of what I state in these blogs about the differences between men and women fits in the generality category. Every generality has its exception; so don’t beat me up over the one or two men or women that you happen to know who live contrary to these generalities. Beat me up where you think I’m wrong or, if you’re a Woman’s Studies professor, I invite you to have a debate with me, on radio or online or in a back-and-forth blog post (see my Journalism debate with Professor Kenna Griffin).

Unlike many of the topics in this series, where there may be more similarities rather than differences, I sincerely believe that men and women truly handle stress in completely different fashions. Herewith, my list of examples:

~~ Men will often let out their frustrations in an aggressive manner. Men like to hit things. Men like to let it OUT in a physical fashion. Of course, I’m not speaking of any physical abuse to another person unless it’s in a supervised fashion such as boxing or wrestling. Guys will go for a run, hit the weight room, whack a bucket of balls on the golfing range etc.

Stress cartoon by Randy Glasbergen

I have a personal example that has stuck in my mind for literally decades. The irony – and there’s a clear lesson here – is that I don’t remember the “stress factor” that motivated the reaction. All I remember is that I was in my early twenties and really pissed off. I paced around my apartment, all wound up, while rain was pouring outside.

Finally, I put on my running clothes and headed out in the downpour for a run. I had a regular path I usually ran. This time, I kept on going. And going. And going. I was completely soaked when I got back home after running somewhere in the neighborhood of ten miles. But, I felt better.

~~ Women will talk or shop or do both when they are stressed. This is clearly two-in-one since talking and shopping could certainly go together but mostly they are separate actions.

Stress up close diagram

I absolutely do not intend this to be a funny cliché. Women do like to shop and, if they or their partners can afford this indulgence, then so be it. If it helps to relax them when they’re stressed out, I’m all for it…except for my wife, of course.

As for talking, let’s face it – women do like to talk about their problems. And, if they’re facing real stress, their first instinct is to reach out to their girl friends. This is a good thing. Men need other men, but tend to keep things inside too often, too much.

~~ Continuing not in alternating order, let’s agree that women also will turn to exercise for stress release. However, their choice of exercise will often be exercise classes, running/jogging, and my all-time favorite: yoga. Yoga, Yoda. It’s all otherworldly to me!

Stress points diagram

Women like yoga. Men don’t. Okay, I’ve said it. I did yoga for a long time – way back in the day when Bikram was teaching at his one and only school in the heart of Beverly Hills. I hated it. Except for the fact that the heated room forced all of us to wear the least amount of clothes that were legally acceptable. So, I suffered the incredible views of the wonderful women in his classes while I struggled to touch my knees.

~~ Sticking with the women, they will also see signs better than the men. They will recognize that the universe is telling them something. Often, that something, is simply needed Down Time.

The whole notion of needed down time is probably equally violated by men and women. But, women may recognize that need while still ignoring it. Men probably will deny the need, and of course ignore it.

Stress cartoon featuring the Mona Lisa

This image may not be right “on point” but it sure is funny!

~~ So, what do men do when they are facing high stress in their lives beyond beating up the punching bag? Some drink, do drugs, or party in other ways (strip clubs).

Again, I find writing these blogs tends to bring out the more negative traits of men while seemingly celebrating women’s wisdom in handling life issues. I most certainly don’t want to give that impression though I am fond of saying that men are slugs. While I’m over-generalizing I might as well veer completely off topic and assert that women are overly emotional creatures.

How do you handle stress? Does any of what I’ve written resonate with you?

Stress isn't funny

Please read and/or comment on any of the other columns in the Men vs. Women series.

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Dealing with The Empty Nest

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    That Mona Lisa image has me lol Bruce ;) I am a guy in the stress management department, wanting to act out a big more when the stresses feel DEEP, but overall, I am letting go these feelings fast as I meditate more each day. Thanks!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @ryanbiddulph:disqus – I never could sit still long enough to get in a meditative state!

  • http://twitter.com/ChattyProf Ellen Bremen

    Interesting timing on this post because my spouse just unexpectedly got laid off. My tendency is often to “process” with others, but this time (we went through it in ’08, as well), I have been far more quiet and he’s been more social. To be fair, that’s been due to me tagging other moms to get some dads to get him out of the house. I am worried about him getting depressed. I have encouraged my husband to ramp up exercise (that is already a part of my life, but his commute/travel prevented it for him) and he started today. Interestingly, I also booked a “spa” day for him tomorrow on a gift situation that went totally awry last year on his birthday. I feel like it would typically be a woman who would have the spa day, wouldn’t it?

    Really, right now, my current situation feels like a total reversal of our usual “response” roles. I think that’s all about my prompting, though–I think job loss and gender has distinct differences (planning to write about that in your series?). Thought-provoking to ponder, Bruce :-) . Thank you! Ellen

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @twitter-278789906:disqus – speaking of stress, I just wrote a lengthy reply and it was lost due to my poor Internet connection thanks to @Dish! Ugh…

      Anyway, I will try and reconstruct what I wrote. I think we all need a “sense of purpose” and I believe it is stronger in men. That said, I think women tend to have more balance in their lives so, as is often in this blog series, I seem to favor women over men (NOT my intention).

      You are doing VERY WELL to encourage your husband to exercise. Much better than lifting up six-packs of beer (and drinking them) which is a common outlet for guys in a frustrating situation out of our control.

      Ironically, I think I see the same thing I’m attributing to men with my wife since she (chose) stopped working. She was hating her job, but it did give her a sense of purpose, a place she belonged, and I think she’s feeling that hole – much as your husband does and I did during my times between work/jobs.

      You are doing YOUR job in helping and supporting him. I wish you both a speedy recovery – new job!

    • Guest

      Loss in general is handled very differently by the opposite sexes. Add that to the sex-associated related to the desire to work (higher for men and lower for most women) and we’ve got a very feminist-provoking heresy…and one that is indeed likely to be thought provoking for open-minded women like you as well. I hope our ever courageous SB Dad sees fit to channel some Catherine Hakim someday soon…tossing Hakim’s Honey Money evils aside first, of course.

  • Guest

    ‘Fight or flight’ males tend to create uptight dictatorships under stress whereas ‘tend and befriend’ females tend to create loosie-goosie totalitarian tyrannies (feminism/Women’s Studies/fatherless single-mother ‘families’) under stress…or at least that’s my untested theory on the topic. That said, the correct usage is ‘sex-specific’ rather than ‘gender-specific’. Since feminists have raped the usages of sex and gender for their vile Valley Girl power plays, it’s important to use sex and for sex and gender for gender…so that begin we can begin to breakthrough the bigoted ‘gender’ indoctrination..which Gender/Women’s/Feminist Studies is so infamous for.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      So, how do you really feel @0003e358a89867db100bf246375feacf:disqus ???

  • Guest

    Loved the Mona Lisa image. Sex and humor are great stress busters for men….although probably far less so in the sleazy SlutWalking age we live in now. There’s good reason why Eris (Strife) and Eros go together.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      As a native Californian, I see these “Mona Lisas” ALL the time…I couldn’t resist including the image though it doesn’t really fit…

  • http://www.stirringtroubleinternationally.com/ Stirring Trouble International

    I like the new version of Mona well done Bruce thanks for the stress tips too, have a great day.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @stirringtroubleinternationally:disqus – I doubt Leonardo would appreciate the change! LOL…

  • Keith

    Bruce I love the message here and your delivery is awesome! I was belly laughing at the mona lisa thing and just put your article on my FB page.

    I love the work of Dr. Steven Stosney and Patrica Love who wrote the book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.” Great title right? I give it out when couples come in to pay thousands of dollars to talk and love the reaction I get. But it’s so true. There are objective differences in how we handle stress, even though the range of normal within each gender and across genders varies as you point out, so much that we have to be careful labeling others.

    But man, these are great tools to use once we can use this vocabulary about stress and the sex differences non-jugmentally.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      The key thing you said @disqus_f4ggIqbxR9:disqus – though I appreciate all of your comment – was at the end, “non-judgmentally” because if we listen to the PC police we can’t talk openly and honestly about much of anything! I hope you’ll join us at #DadChat tonight – we’re talking about rejection and how to teach our kids to handle and face it…

      • http://www.marriagehelpadvisor.com/ Keith Miller

        I hope to hop on #dadchat if I get back in time from hearing my favorite speaker and teacher, @DickSchwartzCSL, who’s in town presenting tonight to psychiatric residents here in DC. Dick is on the forefront as a leader in modern psychotherapies that teach how to systematically foster self-acceptance, especially in the face of the overwhelming symptoms that stem from emotional trauma and social disconnection.

  • Vignesh

    Hey Bruce..Nice article.I do Yoga and take some
    drink as well when I feel myself stressed…

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @e102b407e48a5c89bdbf454265eaa10a:disqus – the key to this is individual…enjoy the Yoga…and let’s raise a toast some day? I drink too, but less each day ’cause of its bad effects as I get older! Ugh…

  • David W.

    I too remember attending those Bikram classes. They were ten dollars a class–pretty expensive in the late 1970s, which is why I only went to them for about two months. Good workouts. Raquel Welch and Dick Benjamin, top-shelf actors of the era, were there in those days; also Paula Prentiss, Benjamin’s wife.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @disqus_dU5ulU60s7:disqus – Raquel Welch sued Bikram for stealing HER format in his first video – OR it was the other way around? I don’t remember…All I know is there was bad blood between them and it was settled! Love showbiz peeps! Lol…