For most women, it seems like stress is part of our everyday lives. We worry about getting the kids to school on time, keeping the pets fed, making sure the chores get done, and a hundred other things. But when we go home to unwind at the end of the day, why does our husband seem to be totally relaxed already in front of the TV? Is his life really less stressful?
One of the big factors in your stress is that you do have to coordinate all these things together. Sure, your man is busy and has a lot of work to do, but you have to do your work, as well as coordinate your schedule, the kids’ schedule, and often his schedule as well. Scientists think that it’s this coordinating and planning that adds stress to your life that your man doesn’t have.
A study was done where men and women kept a journal of what was going on in their lives and what was causing their stress. They found men generally worried about three things: their family, their job, and their finances. While they were all very different, women on average worried or were concerned with twelve different things. Those nine extra stressors are probably not as important to women as the other three, but they still add up to a lot of additional stress.
Not only do men have different levels of stress, they also have a different physical and psychological response to it. Psychological research has shown that hormones released during stress cause a “fight or flight” reaction. This means the body is prepared to escape the stressor quickly, or face it head on. The problem with this research is that when it was done, most research participants were men.
Now that women are becoming more common research subjects, different results are showing up. While women still have the “fight or flight” response, we also have an additional “tend and befriend” response which allows us to deal with stress through social connections and sharing with others.
This reaction to stress is because of a chemical in our system called oxytocin, a hormone that helps us become attached to other people. While men produce just as much of this hormone, the female body chemistry makes it much more effective. Oxytocin is the main reason that while he may just want to relax in front of the TV, we’ll go gab about it to our friends.
The good news? This bonding we feel over stress actually allows us to deal with stress better than men because we have that extra safety net. It may also be the reason we seem more stressed than him, because we’re talking about it and putting it out in the open. While he may not want to share, he’s probably still feeling stressed just like you.