"the only coping mechanism I had was food and any chance I could get I would be eating"
Stress can’t been seen, can’t be heard, and you can’t taste it but it still has the power to impact men’s health in a way that you wouldn’t imagine.
Stress is described by the Oxford dictionary as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’.
It is a well researched topic and it is also a global phenomena that causes many health issues. From anxiety to heart related problems stress related issues are often small to begin with but can leave an everlasting impact.
However there are different ways in which stress can affect you. In some cases it can be useful if it pushes you to do better, gets your adrenaline going and your blood running.
But long term affects on your health can be damaging. DESIblitz explores the 5 ways stress affects men’s health.
1. Eating Your Feelings
High stress levels can make men feel very drained and has the power to affect their lifestyle in a negative manner.
Especially when it comes to a high demanding job, men can find themselves skipping meals. So when they do get to eat, they consume more calories by eating more then they would normally.
Sugary foods are the common ‘go to’ comfort foods that have a higher negative effect on men’s health.
Often with stress eating you tend to put on weight quicker and it’s harder to lose the weight afterwards.
Syed Rai who suffered from high levels of stress says:
“When I use to work in a factory as a manager, the only coping mechanism I had was food and any chance I could get I would be eating and now I suffer from diabetes.”
2. Social Withdrawal
The stereotype of the ‘strong and silent type’ may actually be a picture of the male stress response.
With stress comes high risk of suffering from panic attacks and getting anxiety especially when placed in a really socially lit environment.
When suffering with stress, some men don’t know how to deal with it so the first reaction is to flight the scene to find a safe or comfortable spot.
Hamza, a Tesco worker, says:
“I use to hide a lot during my breaks and not socialise with my colleagues because of the high demands that come with my job, I feel like I needed to be alone to be able to breathe.”
This tendency towards isolation can risk a person developing a serious case of mental disorder especially depression.
3. Decreased Facial Attractiveness
Sajid Hussain, a med student says that: “The male hormone testosterone has a hand in giving men stronger immune system and facial attractiveness.”
Men with higher stress levels develop an increased amount of a hormone called cortisol which tends to block the development of testosterone.
The importance of testosterone is very significant amongst men as it gives them both confidence and that physical appeal to attract potential dates.
And by not having that good amount of testosterone rush, most men seem boring, run down and tired which visibly shows on their face.
When someone looks unapproachable by face, people tend to stay away from them because facial unattractiveness connotes negativity to most people.
4. Erectile Dysfunction
For men to be aroused the parasympathetic nervous system (also known as the ‘relax and renew’ system) is vital.
But when we are stress we tend to work from the sympathetic nervous system also known as ‘fight or flight’.
Davinder shares his story on this matter: “I was too nervous the first time I was going to have sex, and was over thinking it and when we actually got to it I couldn’t get it up and it was so awkward, because we thought there was something wrong with me.”
Men with higher stress levels either suffer from the problem that they can’t get a reaction due to not establishing the parasympathetic tone.
Or they get an erection but can’t control the transition from parasympathetic to sympathetic, and the whole thing goes too quickly.
5. Lower Sperm Levels
Stress or high anxiety levels can play a vital part in a man’s fertility. It is common to be very stressed when trying especially for first time parents.
Tahira says: “My husband and I were in a lot of pressure from our families to have a child and we couldn’t because of the stress my husband was under. Ultimately, when we stopped trying and worrying, I conceived our first child.”
Men who are stressed tend to ejaculate less and have a lower sperm count and concentration than those who were not under stress.
Stress is also positively correlated with deformed and less mobile sperm.
It is common in many situations, and some handle it well while others cannot.
Interestingly, it is thought that women tend to handle stress better than men, especially because men have a tendency to act as the ‘rocks’.
Due to the social stigmas related to gender, men find themselves unable to release emotions as well as women so they tend to bottle it up.
How to Avoid Stress for Men
- Therapeutic talks; let it out and talk about your feelings and emotions, don’t keep them bottled up.
- Don’t isolate yourself, be around people that love you, have social outings with the lads.
- Engage in physical exercise; this is a great stress reliever, as exercises lets you challenge yourself and make you feel better about yourself.
- Pursue a mind soothing hobby that takes your thoughts away from stress and anxiety
Where to Get Help
Here are some useful links and organisations that you can contact if stress is affecting your health:
- Mind.org.uk; support and tips for dealing with everyday stress
- Rethink.org; self-help and treatments for stress
- Anxiety UK; supporting those who live with anxiety disorders
Men, you don’t need to let stress affect your health. If you feel you have a problem, then do seek out help.