People React Differently to Stress

By: Pine Rest Staff

Everyone gets stressed at some point in their lives but not everyone reacts the same way. What may be overwhelming stress to one person might not even faze another.

Stress comes in different forms and affects people of all ages, in all occupations and in various stages of their lives.

Stress can be affected by such things as your physical health, the quality of your personal relationships, the amount and extent of your responsibilities and commitments, how much help or support you receive from others and if you have gone through a traumatic event such as death of a spouse, a serious illness or loss of a job.

Generally, those who have a strong support network – whether it’s family or friends – are better equipped to handle stress than those who do not. Individuals who don’t eat well, get insufficient sleep, or have other types of health problems are less able to handle the pressures of everyday life and are more likely to respond poorly to stress. Those who are going through transitions in life – teenagers, working parents and older adults – often are stressed because of the changes associated with that stage of their lives.

12 Warning Signs of Too Much Stress

  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relax and “unwind”
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Worrying incessantly
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Irritability, moodiness

Men and Women React Differently to Stress

While it is true that anyone can be stressed, women are more likely to experience ongoing stress than men. This is partly due to the added family and social responsibilities that women typically take on – day-to-day overseeing the children; caring for older parents; jobs outside the home plus cooking, laundry and housework in the home. This additional burden can set the stage for serious health problems. Men tend to experience stress over financial concerns, which complies with their traditional role as “breadwinner.”

Men and women also react differently in stressful situations. According to a study reported in the Psychological Review, women are less likely to either “fight” or “flee,” but rather to “tend and befriend.” To tend is a nurturing behavior “designed to protect and to relieve stress” and befriending seeks and maintains social connections, which is behavior most frequently associated with women. Men tend to react more aggressively and to combat the situation or to flee from it.

Age and Stress

Aging can bring on a whole set of stressors. Those include the illness or death of a spouse, accidents, health problems, unpleasant side effects of certain medications, poor eating habits, inability to sleep, diminishing eyesight or hearing to name but a few. In addition, limited physical ability due to joint pain or imbalance can curtail physical exercise or even getting out to church or family activities. The stress is compounded by the fear of further endangering one’s health through everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning or gardening.

How Stress Affects Health

Long-term bouts with stress can lead to serious health problems and chronic stress can affect nearly every system in your body.

Stress can cause or exacerbate anxiety disorders, depression and abuse of alcohol or drugs. Stress can suppress the immune system, increase the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, asthma, and blood sugar fluctuations in diabetics. If you already have a health condition, stress can make it worse.

Stress has been associated with:

  • Skin rashes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stomach ailments
  • Cancers
  • Aging

The Importance of Emotional Support

Having a strong social network of family, friends, neighbors and/or coworkers improves your ability to cope with life’s stressors on your own.

Your network doesn’t need to be large for you to benefit. It’s the quality of your connection … your ability to open up, trust your confidence won’t be broken and that you will not be judged … that’s the most important. It’s best if you don’t lean on just one since different people in your life can support you in different ways.

If you don’t have anyone you can feel safe with, reach out to a mental health professional to help you through a stressful time.

We are here for you! Pine Rest provides compassionate, world-class treatment at all care levels and for all ages.

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