How Men + Women Handle Stress Differently

“Why don’t you just sit down and take a rest?” suggested my partner from the couch as he watched me speed around the house. It was the end of the day and I was clearly exhausted, yet I was still going full steam ahead, taking care of things around the house.

I got annoyed and wished he would get up and help out.

But, if I was honest with myself, I knew he was right. And when I took a moment to reflect, I could see that I was doing things that didn’t have to be done at that moment.

I used to struggle to stop, rest and put my to-do list aside. I lived in overdrive and couldn’t get myself out of it.

Like many of the women that I work with, this is a common reality for them too.

It’s completely counterintuitive but when we’re stressed, we go into extreme “doing” mode.

Trying to do more. Get more done. Just handle a few more things.

Men on the other hand, are pros at detaching and putting things aside. They have an intuitive response to rest. Women, go faster. Doing things we may not even need to do.

If we don’t understand how we process stress and the effects it has on our relationships, blame and misunderstanding are sure to happen. I wanted to blame my partner for not doing his part when really he was handling stress in the way he that was best for him, recharging.

Whether you’re a man or woman that found yourself to this article the tips below should be relevant for you – single, partnered, or dating. You are going to learn:

  1. Three main ways stress affects men + women.
  2. Why this is important for you to understand this.
  3. How to support a partner or someone you’re dating to feel more at peace.

Hormones

Men and women function differently on all levels. Emotionally, mentally, and physically. Much of this is due to our biological makeup and our hormones.

When we’re stressed, cortisol is introduced into our systems and what hormones we need to lower cortisol levels, and de-stress, depends if you are a man or a woman.

Women, when stressed, need oxytocin, the hormone responsible for providing a sense of connection, security, and predictability. When women are stressed, she needs oxytocin to bring the cortisol levels back down. When a woman’s oxytocin levels drop significantly, her energy drops in half. Her body is tired and exhausted but her brain doesn’t turn off.

Men however don’t need oxytocin, they often already have enough and any more for their systems makes them tired. When men get stressed and their cortisol levels, they need testosterone to bring it back down again. Testosterone is the hormone that makes men feel focused, vital, and present. If his testosterone levels are too low, he will feel irritable and moody.

So when stressed, women need to replenish their oxytocin levels and men need to replenish their testosterone levels.

Understanding these basic fundamental differences is vitally important. So much hurt and frustration happens when we don’t know how to support a partner to give them what they actually need when stressed.

Brain Function

When stressed, women go into “do-mode”. Even if the body is exhausted it’s nearly impossible for a woman’s brain to shut down. Their brains are constantly scanning and looking for what needs to get done. They become acutely aware of everyone else’s needs when cortisol is too high. And they struggle to slow down to take care of themselves.

Men on the other hand when stressed, become acutely aware of their own needs. As a result, it’s harder for them to care for others’ needs when their tanks are empty. They’re going to rest, recharge, and seek alone time aka their own “cave time”, undisturbed time in an effort to raise their testosterone levels again.

Understanding the way specific genders are wired in response to stress is so vital to being able to take care of each other’s specific needs.

Women often benefit from support to slow down and drop into connection (vs. remain distracted + disconnected with busy work) and men need space and respected boundaries to calm again and recharge.<

Needs

As was hinted in the previous section, when stressed men and women have completely different needs.

Women need to produce oxytocin which comes through talking, feeling heard, and being listened to. As the man in the partnership get her talk about her problems to you. Don’t offer a solution, don’t go in for the fix, just listen and ask thoughtful questions that will keep her talking and in her feelings. Something like: “How did that make you feel?” “What else is going on?”

Another great way to help a woman replenish her oxytocin levels is through affection. Long hugs, kisses, cuddles on the couch. If you are single and don’t have a partner, taking a bath, hot shower, getting a massage, chatting with a girlfriend will all help in the production of oxytocin.

Men however have completely different needs when stressed. One the best ways for a man to replenish his testosterone is to take some alone time after work before transitioning into home life. If you can give him 15 -20 minutes of uninterrupted time, he is likely to have more energy and presence and be less irritable and distracted.

Men also build testosterone when they feel successful. Men like they have a purpose at home, in the partnership, or in the family. They want to feel needed and like they have an impact so asking clearly for help with projects he can succeed with and appreciating him will also boost his testosterone. Unclear requests where a man anticipates messing up, or failure, will lower his testosterone and he likely won’t follow through.

How to Best Support Yourself and Partner When Stressed

To wrap everything up, understanding these differences of needs allows a real partnership to form. Women when stressed need to slow down, do less, and receive connection and support. One of the best ways to boost men’s testosterone is through alone time, accomplishing something and feeling successful (especially at making his woman happy).

Leveraging each partner’s specific and unique needs in the relationship means that everyone can feel grounded and taken care of and like they’re a contribution to each other.

Want to go deeper and understand these differences on a personalized level? Receive practical tools to maintain lasting, loving partnership? Be able to go through the dating process with more awareness and understanding?

You’ll love my free in-depth masterclass “How Men and Women Handle Stress Differently and my two group offerings Adored” for women and “Lead Your Love” for men. 

Justine Baruch

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