Our daily lives are full of examples of men and women reacting differently to the same stressful situation. While an occurrence may freak one out, it may be quite a matter of no concern for the other.
Although it may vary from individual to individual, the general response of men and women remain somewhat the same. Let’s delve into the details of why this difference occurs and what its consequences can be.
Understanding The Hormonal differences between men and women
Study author Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston concluded that women possess a natural hormone regulator in the brain that is widely different from that of men.
This result was based on a study conducted on a group of men and women who underwent MRI scans to detect the change in brain activity in stressful situations. Women were found to have a better response to stress than men in their ovulation period than during the rest of their menstrual cycle.
Here are 2 major reasons why this happens:
Women face more hormonal fluctuations than men. This may be due to the fact that the female body undergoes tremendous changes while birthing a new life. In addition to that, the monthly menstrual cycle also paves way for plenty of hormonal imbalances which may go on to reflect in the manner women react to stress.
The response may vary depending on where the woman is in her monthly cycle. Pre-menstrual syndrome is a real phenomenon wherein every kind of stress or sadness the lady feels is aggravated resulting in frequent emotional outbursts.
Moreover, conditions like menopause and PCOD in women also cause further emotional traumas which also influences the way they respond to stress.
Comparatively, men seldom face an issue with their reproductive hormones. This is one reason why men usually respond to stressful situations in a calm and collected manner. On the other hand, the standard immediate response of women is to panic and pressurize themselves unnecessarily, especially in emotional situations.
The stress hormones oxytocin, cortisol, and epinephrine are responsible for the reaction one portrays in response to stress. The major theory was such that cortisol causes huge fluctuations in the heart rate of the individual, increases blood pressure, and enhances blood sugar circulation in the body.
It was also believed that women produced more cortisol than men which causes them to react emotionally when in stress. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not cortisol that is the major stress hormone but oxytocin.
In fact, the bodies of women secrete more oxytocin than men’s bodies do when placed in stressful situations. Combine that with the hormonal fluctuations the woman may be undergoing at that point and there’s a possibility of an uncontrolled emotional outburst.
This also explains why mothers are more emotional and respond quite dramatically when it comes to the safety of their children while fathers are known to brush it off unless there’s a serious emergency. Motherly instincts also stem from the same cause.
Managing Stress In Men And Women
The most popular response to stress is the ‘Fight or Flight’ response. In fact, this is how most people react to stressful situations. They either stay back and fight, or take off thereby securing their safety. The Fight or Flight response developed right at the time of our stone-age ancestors and can still be applied in modern situations too.
However, there has been a new response devised based solely on the way women generally handle stressful circumstances. Known as the ‘Tend and Befriend’ response, this phenomenon came into recognition quite recently.
It gives a subtle nod to the way women deal under pressure. They are more likely to stay back and talk their way out of the situation thereby reaching a probable solution.
This is way different than the Fight or Flight theory wherein there‘s no running or fighting involved. It is mere discussing and ‘tending’ to the situation which results in eventually sorting it out sooner and better than expected.
Now you know why women are often referred to as the ‘Glue that binds the family together.’ Generally speaking, women are more likely to win over people by befriending them even if they have had differences in the past.
Probable triggers for stressful situations
For men, the most stressful occurrence will be to have let down by another male component. In the primitive era, this meant having another male woo your lady or hunt a bigger and better kill.
In modern times, an equivalent situation may be to lose a game to an opponent or simply have your self-esteem doubted at the very least. For women, on the other hand, the triggers are quite inclined on the emotional side.
A woman will most likely stress over a personal loss than being competitive with an outsider. Failed relationships, loss of loved ones, and their children being hurt are a lady’s worst nightmares on a general basis.
Health consequences due to stress
While under stress, women tend to experience fewer happy emotions and more negative ones as compared to men. This, in turn, makes women more susceptible to health disorders due to stress in the long run.
This causes increased platelet aggregation in the system. In other words, it leads to the formation of more blood clots thereby enhancing the chances of a stroke or blockage.
In addition to that, the chances of cardiac ischemia also rise which restricts blood flow to the heart. These conditions are combined with an increased heart rate and high blood pressure which is not at all recommended for good mental and physical health over a long period of time.
Summing it up
The difference between men and women is not just physical. In fact, this difference has been in existence since time immemorial and continues to do till date. There are plenty of other reasons too which may cause people to respond to stress the way they do.
Lifestyle habits, childhood traumas, financial statuses, educational qualifications, hormonal fluctuations, medications, and age-related conditions can also cause one to react to stress in a certain manner. Having said that, the underlying fact remains the same.
More often than not, men and women do respond differently to the same emotion and you only have their genetics to blame for it!