Understanding Stress: What Is Stress, Causes, Symptoms, and Coping Mechanisms in Men

Understanding Stress: What Is Stress, Causes, Symptoms, and Coping Mechanisms in Men

Although many men have experienced stress, we often struggle to describe it and identify its symptoms. Learn how to take better care of yourself by understanding what causes stress in men and how you can identify the symptoms.

What is stress?

Most of us know what it feels like to be stressed. We may describe a particular situation as “being stressful” or describe ourselves as being “stressed” after we have had a long or difficult day. However, most of us may struggle if we were asked to define what stress was.

Many people would associate stress as being some form of mental or emotional strain placed on them by external factors, also known as stressors. The body perceives these stressors to be an excessive demand on its coping mechanisms, leading to psychological and physical responses.

People's views on stress can also vary depending on geography. In Western culture stress is usually related to a loss of control whereas in Eastern culture it is often considered to represent the absence of inner peace.

The truth of the matter is that there is no universal medical definition of stress. This can make it difficult to establish whether you are suffering from stress, what is causing you to feel stressed and what actions you can take to treat your stress.

Recent research is beginning to shed light on the intricate nature of stress. Studies suggest that stress might be more accurately defined as our body's response to perceived challenges or threats. This reaction activates a 'fight or flight' response which readies the body for immediate action. Depending on the frequency and intensity of the stressors, these reactions can be acute - lasting only for the duration of the stressful situation, or chronic - persisting over a longer period. Chronic stress, especially, can have detrimental impacts on our physical and mental health, underlining the importance of effective stress management.

It is important to also understand that there is both good and bad stress. Good stress is typically less prolonged and enables us to get through our day. For instance, it’s what makes us wake up in the morning, give a presentation in front of a room full of people, compete in a sports match, etc. Bad stress, also known as chronic stress is prolonged and lasts for longer periods - enough time for damage to be done to our bodies.1

What causes stress in men?

A wide range of factors can induce stress. These include financial concerns, interpersonal relationships, professional pressures, loss of loved ones, chronic illnesses, or struggles with addiction. Emerging research indicates that even daily hassles or the current pandemic situation can contribute significantly to stress levels.

Often substantial changes in your life, situations which have been imposed on you without your consent and situations which you have little control over can cause stress.

Personal problems2

  • Short and long-term health problems
  • Bereavement of a family member or friend
  • Debt and financial worries

Personal events2

  • Planning a birthday, wedding, reunion or holiday
  • Having a child


  • Getting married or entering a civil partnership
  • Ending a relationship or getting divorced
  • Problematic relationships

Friends and relatives2

  • Coping with short and long-term health problems
  • Looking after friends and relatives with health problems
  • Providing support to friends and relatives
  • Problematic relationships with friends and relatives


  • Poor conditions
  • Disputes with tenants or landlords
  • Problematic neighbours
  • Unsafe neighbourhood

Work and study2

  • Starting a new job
  • Work pressures including unreasonable bosses
  • Undesirable work environment
  • Lack of job satisfaction
  • Fear of losing job or being made redundant
  • Being unemployed
  • Work life balance
  • Exams and deadlines

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress may affect you emotionally as well as physically; it can affect the way you feel, behave as well as your physical state. Men are often not great at identifying when they are suffering from stress and even worse at admitting it.

The manifestation of stress symptoms is highly individual, differing greatly from person to person. Everyone experiences stress differently in different situations. Some people may find commuting highly stressful and be able to tell right away that they are stressed. Others may find commuting highly stressful but not recognise this. The remaining people may not find it stressful at all, rather as a time to relax, wind down and listen to some music.

The Way You Feel3

  • Overwhelmed or helpless
  • Depressed
  • Neglected or lonely
  • Insecure
  • Low self-worth
  • Nervous, worried or anxious
  • Fearful
  • Disinterested in life
  • Lost your sense of humour
  • Difficulty to switch off and relax
  • Difficulty to enjoy yourself
  • Irritable, aggressive and worked up

The Way You Behave3

  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Decreased productivity
  • Indecisive
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Short tempered and agitated
  • Fluctuating appetite
  • Fluctuating mood
  • Crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty staying still
  • Increase in bad habits such as smoking, drinking and drugs
  • Changes in personal relationships
  • Racing thoughts

Physical State3

  • Shallow breathing or hyperventilation
  • Feeling sick or light-headed
  • Experience a panic attack
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Sexual problems and lack of interest in sex
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Chest pains
  • High blood pressure
  • Bowel and digestion problems including heartburn and IBS
  • Skin problems such as acne
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia

Why should you do something about your stress?

If you are worried about suffering from stress, then you should take action now. There’s a lot you can be to reduce your stress levels and boost your resilience to it.

Perhaps you are already aware of suffering from stress or are fearful about having some of the symptoms mentioned above. Needless to say, you should visit a doctor if you have any concerns or if anything is having a significant impact on your life. Some symptoms of stress may also indicate a disease or health issue and should be investigated further.

High levels of stress can increase the risk of some of the top killing diseases and illnesses such as heart disease, heart attacks, cancer and strokes. It can also lead to a whole host of potentially serious conditions including mental health problems, immune and digestion problems, eating disorders, weight gain, diabetes, headaches, migraines, acne, asthma and poor sex drive.4

Coping Mechanisms for Stress

Addressing stress proactively is crucial for maintaining overall wellbeing. Here are a few effective strategies to manage stress:5

Exercise Regularly: Physical activity produces stress-relieving hormones, known as endorphins, and improves mood. Regular exercise can act as a potent stress reducer.

Maintain a Balanced Diet: What we eat can impact our mood and stress levels. Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide the necessary nutrients for the body to combat stress.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help quiet the mind and reduce anxiety. Even a few minutes a day can help improve stress resilience.

Stay Connected: Support from loved ones can provide a buffer against stress. Sharing your worries or simply spending time with friends and family can lighten your mental load.

Seek Professional Help: If stress becomes overwhelming, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists or counsellors can provide strategies to manage stress effectively.

Remember, it's important to try different strategies and find what works best for you. Coping with stress is a highly individual process and what works for one might not work for another.

Interested in finding out how stressed you are? Take our stress quiz now to find out.



1. American Psychological Association. (2022). Stress won’t go away? Maybe you are suffering from chronic stress. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/chronic/

2. Mental Health Foundation. (2022). What are the causes of stress?. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/stress

3. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

4. American Institute of Stress. (2022). Effects of Stress. Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/effects-of-acute-chronic-stress-and-sexual-arousal-in-men

5. American Psychological Association. (2015). Coping with Stress. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/12/pc


This article was created for informational purposes only and does not necessarily represent the views of For Chaps Ltd. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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