Reach out—don’t “man up”

Why stress is different for men

Reach out—don’t “man up”

Men are no less immune than women from the effects of stress. But it’s the manifestations of that stress and how men deal with them that often differs dramatically. Here are some effective ways for men to manage that stress.

What are the consequences of chronic stress?

A certain amount of short-term stress can be a good thing: it boosts alertness and primes the brain for enhanced performance. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and anxiety, among other conditions. In men, high stress can also contribute to erectile dysfunction.

What are the expectations for men versus women?

Society places different, if outdated, expectations on men and women as to how they should deal with stressful situations. Men commonly feel that not revealing emotion is a show of strength. “A lot of times guys will revert to this or think it’s taboo,” says professor and research chair John Oliffe. Traditional expectations of “manning up” can affect men’s abilities to deal with stress in meaningful ways.

Often, the way things unfold can be summed up by what Oliffe refers to as the “three I’s.”

  1. Injury (a major life transition such as a breakup or job loss), with men feeling as though they should be able to push through it until it goes away
  2. Interiority, with men looking internally to deal with a major stressor rather than reaching out to others, possibly turning to substance use to blunt their emotions
  3. Isolation—social isolation, Oliffe notes, is the biggest predictor of male suicide: “If you’ve got an injury and look internally—you’re not dealing with it and you’re isolating to conceal the injury—there’s a great amount of shame in not being able to solve problems or even in just having problems.”

What can men do to effectively deal with stress?


Physical activity boosts the body’s production of endorphins, or feel-good neurotransmitters; it improves mood, focus, productivity, and sleep.

Reach out

Reaching out to a partner, friends, or other trusted people in your life is another way to manage stress. “Think about it as mutual help: a lot of times if you have a conversation with another guy, they’ll have things that affirm you in your experience. There’s a reciprocity there. We do better with people around us, especially good people.”

Consider professional help

Accessing professional help can go a long way in handling stress, and more men are accessing such services, Oliffe says. Speaking with someone who’s outside of their personal situation can help men debrief with a view to seeing things from another point of view, ultimately giving them back some control.

Supplements for stress

Remember, always check with your health care practitioner before trying a new supplement to make sure it’s right for you.

  • B-complex vitamins
  • L-theanine
  • Lemon balm
  • Magnesium
  • Ashwagandha


By Joanne Peters