EU Living Magazine v6 English - Page 15

A MAN’S GUIDE TO STRESS MECHANICS 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 PROBLEMS BEFORE PROCESSING THEIR EMOTIONS. WORK WITH YOUR STRESS HORMONES, NOT AGAINST THEM. 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 under stress. 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. / 15