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Men’s Health Awareness Month: Managing Stress, What Men Need to Know

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD


June is Men’s Health Month. It is also the month of summer, sunshine, flowers, and Father’s Day. It is the perfect time to remind the men in our lives that taking care of themselves and their health needs to be a top priority.

On average, men die five years younger than women, and die at higher rates from the leading causes of death including heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s and more.

While stress does not discriminate, it appears that men and women may experience stress in different ways. And with stress causing or worsening 90% of illness, this topic is vital to help men optimize their health[1].


What’s going on

There are several differences between men and women when it comes to stress. One has to do with stress hormones that are released in the body.


Stress hormones

Whenever a body experiences stress, it releases certain hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. These biochemicals help to get the body ready to deal with the stressor (i.e., fight or flight). While men and women both have a surge of these hormones during a stress response, there is a difference in what happens next. In women, the brain releases oxytocin in response to these stress hormones. Oxytocin promotes nurturing and relaxing emotions. Men, however, do not have this release of oxytocin.


Reaction to stress

It also appears that men have a stronger response to a stress reaction. Men have a higher increase in blood pressure and heart rate when exposed to stress.

When it comes to managing stress, evidence suggests that women seem to do better. Women, with their surge of oxytocin, often “tend and befriend,” meaning in response to stress, rather than engaging in fight-or-flight, women are more likely to tend to their offspring or seek out social support.

Men, on the other hand, tend to respond to stress more in a fight-or-flight manner. In today’s world, that can look like arguing or playing a sport (competitive “fight”) or watching TV (escaping or “flight”). They are skilled at compartmentalizing and repressing their emotions. While this may have been helpful to our ancestors for whom stress was a short-term event (animal attacking), it can be extremely detrimental in the long run.

Men are more likely to avoid talking about feelings and often change the subject, so they don’t have to talk about it. Asking for help with their sources of stress, such as pressures from work, family issues or financial concerns, is often something men sidestep.

Men are also more likely to withdraw socially when stressed. And, while depression rates overall are higher for women, more men experience major depression brought on by work-related stress.


Stress and depression

In fact, a prospective study completed over 25 years found that stressful events increased the risk of clinical depression 50% more in men1 as compared to women. Sadly, men are also less likely to seek treatment for depression, making their distress even more detrimental to their well-being.

In general, male self-esteem is based on performance, as opposed to women who tend to develop self-worth in terms of relationships. As such, men can often let a competitor’s actions or an employer’s agenda determine their efforts and behaviors. With a “winning at all costs” mentality, men often push themselves to succeed despite its toll on their emotional well-being.

Differences between men and women, when it comes to how one deals with stress, may contribute to the significant difference in life expectancy. The nurturing reaction women often utilize is beneficial to their physical health. And, with the higher rates of depression in men when stressed, suicide can also play a role in decreased longevity. In fact, men are three and half times2 more likely to die by suicide as compared to women.


Symptoms of stress

Stress can manifest itself in countless ways. At work, males may notice difficulty focusing and concentrating, lack of motivation, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities or feelings of insecurity.

When it comes to relationships, social withdrawal, mood swings or greater arguments can impair interactions. Physically, men may notice changes in eating, muscle tightness and even chest pain.

Men often experience trouble sleeping or feelings of anger and irritability when living in a state of elevated stress. In addition, they often respond with higher levels of aggression. Heavy alcohol or drug use and poor self-care is also common in men who are dealing with high levels of stress. Women are more likely to feel nervous, cry or experience a lack of energy.

While men may experience any of the symptoms of stress, they are not as likely to report emotional and physical symptoms of stress.


Long-term impact of stress

Chronic stress can adversely impact pretty much every organ system in the body, from skin and hair (breaking out in rashes, hair loss) to gastrointestinal disturbances, neuromuscular issues (such as headaches or other types of chronic pain) and reduced immune functioning (making the body more susceptible to illness such as colds and other infections).

Additionally, there are some long-term effects of stress that men can uniquely experience. For example, there is an increased risk of prostate cancer3 in men with chronic stress. Stress can negatively impact tumor growth/spreading and can cause sexual disfunction and/or infertility.


Managing stress

With the determinantal effects of stress, it is important for men (and women, for that matter!) to take steps to better manage their stress. Here are seven tips to help you control your stress, rather than letting stress control you.

Talk it out: While this may not initially feel like a way to reduce stress because of the tendency to stuff emotions, men would greatly benefit from talking out issues with friends, their partner or other people close to them.

Write it out: If talking to a friend or family member seems too stressful, try writing it out. Research shows that written emotional disclosure (writing about your stress) can be beneficial. To do this, set aside at least 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted time. Grab a paper and pen and just start writing about what is bothering you, what challenges you are facing and what your reaction is. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or flow of content. This is just a brain dump, which can ultimately help you feel better.

Work it out: Any type of exercise or movement is a great way to combat stress. Go for a walk or jog, play a game of basketball, lift weights. This will help your mind and body better deal with stress.

Address triggers: Look at what experiences tend to increase your stress. Perhaps it is being with certain people, certain tasks at work or being exhausted from poor sleep. Then take steps to do what you can to minimize your exposure to the stressors.

Meditate: While many people may scoff at the idea of meditation, it can be a truly powerful way to combat stress. Even just a few minutes of focusing on your breath can be beneficial. Or try a guided meditation, many of which you can find for free on various apps or YouTube.

Socialize: Spending time with family and friends can be extremely therapeutic when it comes to relieving stress. With warmer weather upon us and some COVID restrictions lifted, look for opportunities to be with loved ones: going for a walk, enjoying a barbeque, watching or playing a game.

Have fun: Fun is not just for kids. It is an important ingredient to a life with less stress and greater happiness. Try taking up a hobby or resuming one you used to enjoy. Read a book for fun. Play a game.


Make managing your stress a regular habit you incorporate into your daily life. Your mind, body, work and loved ones will appreciate it!


Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo is a Licensed Practicing Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Master's degree in Physical Therapy, and the authority on how to crush your inner critic so that you can live a life of purpose, fulfillment and True Success™. She’s America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist with over 100 national media interviews. She writes for Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but her medical opinions and advice are for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor



1- Depression: Men more vulnerable to long-term effects of stress. (2016, March 25). Retrieved June 14, 2021, from

2- Jerry Kennard, P. (2020, December 10). Why more men are taking their own lives. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from

3- Magnon, C., Hall, S., Lin, J., Xue, X., Gerber, L., Freedland, S., & Frenette, P. (2013, July 12). Autonomic nerve development contributes to prostate cancer progression. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from