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Men's Health

Coping with Workplace Stress

Male-specific problems when dealing with workplace stress.
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Why Work Is Often the Culprit continued...

In Japan, says Good, that role is even more profoundly defined. Women are expected to serve men, and since a woman's role is in the home and with the family, the man's role -- and his self-esteem -- is tied nearly exclusively to work. And in Japan, says Good, showing emotion is practically forbidden.

Suppressing feelings and internalizing stress are learned, male traits, says Good -- traits that keep men from telling their bosses that they're feeling overburdened or need help. "On some inner level, it comes down to: If I can't tough it out, then I'm not much of man."

Communication Is Key

Experts agree that the most important thing men can do to work through stress is to learn to communicate -- even if it means rethinking traditional male roles. This means trying to openly resolve conflicts at work, as well as seeking outside support from counselors, support groups or co-workers.

Hope Hills, PhD, is president of Circle Consulting Group in Wisconsin, a company that specializes in team- and leadership-building. "When men start admitting their insecurity," says Hills, "especially to their colleagues, there can be a real change in their level of stress and comfort with themselves."

One of the simpler things that men can do to control stress is relaxation training -- such as meditation, biofeedback, or yoga -- for 15 to 20 minutes during the work day. Exercise also plays a role, making the body stronger and more able to withstand stress.

But in the end, what's also important is for men to stop expecting too much of themselves. "I think a lot of men have that kind of pressure on themselves that nothing they ever do is good enough," says Hills. But if men can become aware of the link between this mindset and stress, they can nip it in the bud.

Identifying Workplace Stress

Terry A. Beehr, PhD, director of PhD programs in industrial and organizational psychology at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, says signs of workplace stress include:

  • withdrawing from the job
  • not showing up
  • coming in late
  • leaving early
  • avoiding phone calls
  • rise in blood pressure
  • an increase in drinking

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