Stress is the "wear and tear" the body goes through as it adjusts to the constantly changing environment. Anything that causes change in a person's life causes stress. Stress can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat. This is commonly known as the "fight or flight" response. The threat can be any situation that is seen as a danger. Common short-term stressors include: noise crowding being isolated from othersillnesshunger dangerinfection Imagining a threat or remembering a dangerous event can also evoke a stress response. Modern life frequently results in ongoing stressful situations. These may include: difficult work or personal situationslonelinessfinancial worriesthe recent death of a family member or loved onea move to a new home or change in jobphysical illness, especially long-term conditionsdifficulty sleeping or inability to obtain enough sleep
Stress occurs all the time in most people's lives. At some point in their lives, almost all people will go through stressful events or situations that overwhelm their ability to cope.
Too much stress, however, can seriously affect physical and mental well-being. Stress decreases the quality of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and accomplishment. In addition, the body's response to stress can cause symptoms and illnesses of many kinds, especially if the stress is prolonged.
Stress may increase the risk of heart disease. It appears to have a greater impact on a man's arteries than on a woman's. Men who report the most stress have almost five times the risk of having atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. Stomach ulcers and other gastrointestinal illnesses are also among the most common physical consequences of stress.
Job and financial concerns are among the most common stressors for a man. He is supposed to be able to "support" his family. In today's economy, a family living on a single income is rare. Most often the woman is working outside the home also. Job changes, whether planned or unexpected, add a level of stress.
Divorce is among the leading causes of stress. It is not uncommon for a man to find that he is the primary caregiver for his children, or that he has joint custody. This may involve a many changes, which are very stressful until a routine is formed. This is especially true for a man who has not been able to be involved much in raising his children because of his job.
Changes a man goes through in middle age may also increase stress. A man may notice that his hairline is beginning to recede. If he is not active, he may gain weight. With increased stress, sexual function may be affected.
One temporary remedy to stress may be stress-reduction exercises. Sometimes these techniques can be quite easy and simple. Taking a few minutes to practice relaxation or meditation can help to ease some of the stress. Taking a vacation, developing interests outside of work, and finding supportive friends who will listen can help to relieve stress.
Sometimes, changes in the workplace or renegotiation of the demands of the job may be needed. This may require joining with other workers to document stressful conditions.
There are support groups that a man can join to help him deal with these changes. In addition, staying active, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep will help to decrease the stress. Exercising may decrease stress by increasing a person's health and giving them an outlet for relieving stress. For example, while walking a person may be able to put his situation and stress in perspective and think of ways to resolve the stress.
Most men are less likely than women to talk to a friend about problems. However, if a man can find a loyal friend who will take the time and keep his confidence, stress can be greatly relieved. One of the most helpful things a healthcare professional can do is to let a man know that it is okay to discuss his problems or concerns with a trusted friend. It is even more helpful if a man has two or three different friends who are more trusted for different types of issues.
Sometimes, especially in highly stressful situations of a temporary nature such as the death of a loved one, medications can be helpful. However, over the longer term, the risks of dependence on medications, or of substituting medication for other productive steps, must be weighed against the benefits.
Eliminating stress from life is impossible. However, doing nothing to counteract stress will virtually guarantee that a man will experience harmful physical, emotional and relational consequences.
Hales, Robert, Textbook of Psychiatry, 2nd edition 1994 Stuart and Sundeen, Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing: 4th edition, 1991 "Stress", Nidus Information Pamphlet, Report #31, September 30,1999 "Stress Linked to Arterial Disease in Men", www.heartinfo.org/reutersnews/t0330-9f.htm