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Do Women feel stress differently from Men?

Posted by on in Amanda J Miller
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I was having a discussion with my husband recently and asked him how he 'felt' about something.  He looked at me blankly and asked what I meant?  My attempts to verbalise what I meant were as effective as his attempts to verbalise what he felt.  We were talking different languages!  He can tell me how he feels in terms of physical symptoms, such as where something is aching, or when he feels that he is getting man-flu.  But he can't tell me how he feels about an issue or situation. Instead I have to rephrase the question to "What do you think about XYZ".  Okay, so I am generalising a little here, as there are many men who can have an in-depth discussion about their feelings on a subject, so please don't write in.

Which led  me to pondering about the differences in our lives, and how men deal with the negative effects of worry and stress.  I can only write from my own  female viewpoint, (and yes, another generalisation) so was considering such situations that freak me out, such as -

 • Things that involve me and cars.  Such as driving through central London with husband commenting as a back seat driver next to me. Or parallel parking.  Having a puncture or breakdown

 • Things that involve assessments of my physical capability. Such as driving tests. (Or having my  husband in the car.)

 • Annual appraisals -  and I am hugely grateful that I have never worked for my husband. Or we'd have been divorced years ago.

Even just typing out those phrases has sent my pulse racing.  I could answer the how it feels as having  palpitations in  my abdomen, and having legs (particularly knee joints) that turn to jelly. My head is starting to throb and my throat is dry.  All of me feels tense and a little out of control. These are my physical symptoms, which in the past I have counteracted with products such as Kalms which stopped the butterflies in the stomach, but did nothing  for controlling my knees.   I can certainly 'feel' those memories as if my body is currently experiencing them.  We can perhaps deal with the physical symptoms and lessen them, but the voice in our head (and in the drivers' seat) is still there.


We can all reach for some form of medication to control the physical symptoms.  It is what is going on in my mind that is the issue, and cause of my stress.  Let's take the car issue.  I have taken 4 driving tests, but have only failed one. How was this?  I failed my first ever UK driving test when I was 17 by hitting the curb when turning right out of the test centre.  My nerves had created the physical feelings of anxiety and obviously lack of co-ordination too.  I passed at the second attempt.  The other two tests were in the USA, as you have tio pass a test in the state that you become resident in.  So even with more than 20 years of driving experience, I felt so nervous about having to do parallel parking in examination conditions.  I will also admit to that being the first time I had ever even needed to attempt parallel parking.  It wasn't in my UK test back in 1985 and I had managed to avoid doing it in the intervening period. 

My husband in the other hand passes all tests that involve wheels.  Cycles, motorcycles and all three of his driving tests.  With full control of body and mind.  And they don't keep him awake the night before. 

Then there are those events that have us called into an office to assess our job performance.  In a well run company, with an organised performance management programme, these should happen quarterly to ensure you are on track, and then the annual one is just a confirmation of your achievement.  However, in my almost 30 years of employment, I have yet to find a company (or work under a manager) who instigated these properly.  So I brace myself for the 'feedback sandwich'.  You probably know how it goes.  Manager gives you the good things that you have achieved, then the 'areas for improvement', then finishes off with another morsel of praise.  Or you may know this as a 'S**t sandwich'.  Deep-filled.  The men I have worked with just deal with these and shrug a less than great appraisal off. I allow my mind to dwell on it for days, if not weeks  afterwards, and store up the uncomfortable feelings in my solar plexus for the next time. 

It is my personal conclusion (not a scientifically proven one) that men do not over analyse their feelings and churn them around in their minds.  They can't turn their feelings into words, and therefore those words don't keep them awake at night.

So, if I hadn't learned to speak, could I have learned to worry? 

As animals don't have the power of speech, do they have the ability to worry? 

I chose the picture at the beginning of this article as it looks like the cat is about to give her considered judgement.  The jury is currently out.






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