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Admit It, Men: You’re Stressed

How you can recognize and relieve stress
By Sean Elder
WebMD Feature

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.

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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 men.

"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."

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