We can think of stress in two ways. Eustress, which can be thought of as helpful stress, and distress, which can be thought of as unhelpful and damaging stress. When the pressures around a person outstrip their ability to cope with them we call this stress but we mean stress of the distress variety.
Men are not always good at recognizing stress in themselves and as one person's ability to cope with situations invariably differs from another stress is an individual experience. What one man finds stressful another will not, and what can be stressful one time may not be at another time of your life.
Measuring Stress in Men
Stress can be measured in different ways but usually takes the form of a self-report in which the person rates particular experiences, events or feelings on a scale of some sort. Probably the most well known is the SRRS (Social Readjustment Ratings Scale) that was originally put together by two American psychiatrists in 1967. Thomas H. Holmes and Richard Rahe. They listed a number of life events assumed to be stressful, such as moving house, death of a spouse, etc and they placed a numerical value against each of these items based on the intensity of the stress. Death of a spouse for example was rated the most stressful at 100 whereas a minor violation of the law was 11.
Facts about Stress and Men
The language of stress is largely borrowed from engineering. We talk of stress, strain, tolerance, resilience, breaking points, flexibility, elasticity, etc.
Broadly speaking stress can be experienced in two ways, physically and psychologically, but the two are interrelated. For example, the psychologists Janice Keicolt-Glaser has demonstrated how chronic stress leads to decreased immune function and increased risk of infection and decreased ability to fight infection or repair tissue.
Stress is a protector in that it gives us a mechanism for dealing with threats. We have the capability fight threats in some fashion or we can avoid them; the so-called fight or flight mechanism.
Stress can be good as well as bad. Without some stress we would not get the adrenaline up to win races, solve problems, take exams and make changes in the world.
Stress, particularly long-term stress, can be a factor in the onset or worsening of ill health
Stress can cause debilitating symptoms
Stress management is essential to wellbeing and something we should practice every day.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Stress for Men
Below are some of the physical signs and symptoms of stress. Remember that stress is an individual experience and that symptoms are too. These signs and symptoms may be signs of disease so you should not ignore them just because you believe they are stress related. You must get more serious symptoms checked out by your doctor.
Physical signs and symptoms of stress include:
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Diminished or increased sex drive
Muscle aches, such as back and neck pain
Clenched jaws and grinding teeth
Tight, dry or a feeling of a lump in your throat
Constipation or diarrhea
Weight gain or loss
The psychological signs and symptoms of stress include:
Withdrawal or isolation
Irritability, anger, decreased anger control
Overeating or anorexia
Feelings of insecurity
Changes in close relationships
Increased smoking, increased use of alcohol and drugs.