A MAN’S GUIDE TO
The word “stress” carries serious emotional baggage. It conjures up images of looming deadlines,
long to-do lists, and emotional turbulence. However, stress serves a legitimate biological purpose;
our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on stress systems to gear up for the fight or flight of survival.
When threatened, primitive man’s adrenal system pumped out the hormones necessary to save his hide.
Sure, survival in today’s world is a different story. The modern man experiences more psychological stress
than physical danger; however, our bodies don’t know the difference. Under emotional stress our bodies
release the same hormones that compel us to run for our lives, while our brains fight to keep us grounded
and rational. Understanding how surging stress hormones influence male perceptions and responses to life’s
challenges may be the key to better emotional health.
FIRST, UNDERSTAND THAT MEN
HAVE A UNIQUE HORMONAL
RESPONSE TO STRESS.
CONSEQUENTLY, MEN ARE
PROGRAMMED TO SOLVE
PROCESSING THEIR EMOTIONS.
WORK WITH YOUR
STRESS HORMONES, NOT
The three stress hormones responsible
for the fight or flight response are
cortisol, epinephrine (also known as
adrenaline), and oxytocin. Cortisol and
epinephrine raise blood pressure and
heighten the senses. Oxytocin softens
the effects of cortisol and epinephrine
relaxes the emotions.
While all humans experience fight or
flight syndrome, men release less
oxytocin than women, and therefore
have a stronger reaction from both
cortisol and epinephrine. This means
that under stress, men are hard-wired to
rev up and stay that way until hormonal
spikes return to normal levels.
Men tend to compartmentalise and
repress their feelings, prioritising
instead the quickest route to resolution
or safety. This biological fact can shed
light on both the healthy and unhealthy
coping strategies men deploy when
On the healthy spectrum of this
response, men will channel stress into
strategic, competitive productivity.
However, the flip side of this response is
escapism. When stress levels rise, men
will just as often lose themselves in
competitive diversions that burn off the
excess cortisol and epinephrine.
Now that you understand how our
bodies respond to stress hormones,
you can evaluate how well you
cooperate with your adrenal system.
Do you harness the spikes in efficiency
to tackle your triple-digit inbox, or chip
away at the home improvement to-do
list? Perhaps you carve out time for
more physical activity or hobbies?
Could your coping mechanisms be
avoidance behaviours that distract you
temporarily, but perpetuate stress in
the end? Answering these questions
will empower you to choose healthy
responses to life’s difficulties.
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