You probably think of yourself as an average guy. And you probably think you
cope pretty well with everyday stress. Sure, the boss might be causing you
stress at work and making you uneasy about how secure your job is. Yeah, and
maybe your wife has been too busy or too tired lately to notice just how much
stress you have to deal with. And look at how fast your daughter is growing up.
It's as if you're watching her in time-lapse photography while your
college-aged son is still stuck in high school. . .
But that's all right. You're cool. Except for those stressful moments when
you snarl because your shirt buttons are too big, or you bust a blood vessel
because some old lady is taking forever to get off the bus, or the
blankety-blank CD, which you paid perfectly good money for, is shrink-wrapped
so tightly that you break the case trying to open it. Whoa! Maybe it's not the
disc that's wrapped too tight.
You walk into Home Depot or Lowe's to pick up a lightbulb. Instead, you
leave with some new flooring, a circular saw, a framing square, and big ideas
about re-tiling your kitchen.
The problem? You've never done anything more than change a lightbulb by
Growing numbers of Americans are tackling do-it-yourself home improvement
projects that once might have been left to professionals. One reason for the
shift: Stores like Home Depot, along with TV shows on networks like HGTV or the
Do you think maybe you are feeling more stress these days? Maybe even more
stress than a woman?
Suck it up? How men try to cope with stress
"I think women and men are equally stressed," says Edward Hallowell, MD.
"Men just deal with stress differently." Hallowell is founder of the Hallowell
Center in Sudbury, Mass., and author of Crazy Busy: Overstretched,
Overbooked and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD.
"Men notoriously have trouble putting their feelings into words," he says.
"They bottle things up so they're more subject to the damages of stress."
But aren't men just supposed to suck it up? "The essence of traditional
masculinity is invulnerability," says Terrence Real, MSW, a psychotherapist in
Newton, Mass. Real is the author of I Don't Want to Talk About It:
Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. "Vulnerability equals
femininity," he says. "Femininity equals unmanliness. And unmanliness equals
disaster. The system that men organize their psychology around is built on a
lie. We're all trying to be little Al Haigs, saying, 'I'm in charge here.'"
Not that women are any more in charge. They're just given more leeway and
are more apt to be forgiven if they throw up their hands and say, "I can't
handle it!" Hallowell believes they actually have a tougher time of it than
"Women's stress often comes from working as well as having the primary
caretaking responsibilities at home," he says. In fact, the causes of stress
may be the same for both genders - too much work and too little time for
exercise or relaxation. But Hallowell thinks men are deprived of a crucial
safety valve. "Men have trouble saying, 'Gosh, this is hard,' and asking for
help. In that sense they have it harder than women. But the good news is they
can do something to change that."