Stress affects both men and women equally but the difference lies in how the body responds.
This is due to hormonal differences between the two sexes.
Due to societal pressures that put unreasonable demands on men’s emotions: that they shouldn’t cry, or should be able to cope with stress, men tend to bottle up emotions, going into problem-solving mode or finding ways to escape as one of their coping mechanisms.
This can lead some men to get stuck in a cycle of fatigue, loss of motivation, depression, not wanting to exercise, weight gain, cycling back to fatigue.
Chronic high stress may lead to insomnia, increased blood pressure, changes in bowel habits, slower recovery time from colds and flu, and low testosterone.
When we are stressed, the body releases cortisol and epinephrine from the adrenal gland, which increases blood pressure, increases blood glucose, decreases the immune response, and temporarily shunts away from the reproductive system.
When the demand for cortisol exceeds the amount produced by the body, the body “borrows” the resource from the reproductive steroid hormones to supply cortisol. While progesterone gets affected in women, testosterone is the one that takes the hit in men.
Effects of low testosterone include:
- Lower libido, reduced interest in intimacy or sex.
- Erectile dysfunction: in achieving or maintaining an erection.
- Insomnia: waking up too early, unable to fall asleep or interrupted sleep.
- Mood changes: increased impatience, irritability, anxiousness, depression and rumination over past events.
- Withdrawing from social interactions: finding comfort in your mancave.
- Brain fog, memory issues and increased fatigue.
- Increased craving for stimulants or sedatives (including alcohol and drugs).
- Stomach upsets: constipation, bloating and acid reflux.
- Body changes: weight gain or hair loss.
- Feeling older than your actual age.
Low testosterone levels can also have invisible symptoms including lower sperm counts and higher cholesterol.
Stressed-induced low testosterone is different from age-related testosterone loss. When stress-induced, low testosterone is temporary and often reversible.
I have witnessed countless patients improve stress response and naturally boost their testosterone levels by addressing the following areas:
- Being more active.
Hit the gym, or get outside. Increasing natural light and sun exposure helps reduce stress.
Aerobic or anaerobic exercise helps regulate the cortisol response pathway. If you are short on time, consistent daily workouts of 7 minutes have been shown to be effective.
- Emotional support.
Talking to people about the way you’re feeling, either in your social circle, or in a professional setting can help reduce stress levels. There is often a taboo for men to seek therapy, but therapy is beneficial for everyone, not just specific genders. There is no shame in seeking support, and therapy remains confidential between you and your therapist.
If seeking professional help doesn’t feel right for you at the moment, consider getting involved in a team sport. The camaraderie and mutual support knocks off the stress of the day-to-day grind.
- Rest and improve sleep quality.
If you are a snorer, get a sleep study to rule out sleep apnea. Sleep apnea shortens the oxygen supply in the body which puts the body in a fight or flight mode and leads to increased cortisol release at night.
- Eat a veggie-full diet 5 days a week.
This provides the foundation of health. Getting the vitamins and minerals your body and mind need to function effectively supports the function of all systems in your body for better wellbeing.
- Have a happy poop, daily.
Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water can help support daily bowel movements. Poor diets and the resulting effects on bowel movements can also affect your mood. Your gut is your second brain after all.
If you’ve tried all of the above, but you’re still struggling to reduce your stress levels, you may wish to seek further support from a healthcare practitioner.