Imagine two people working in the same job, same office, with the same degree of stress. One person handles the job and the pressure seemingly well, the other takes some personal time off as a result of burnout. What gives? "It is not stress that kills us," said Hans Selye, endocrinologist and an icon of stress research, "It is our reaction to it."
There are healthy and other not so healthy ways of dealing with stress. Laughter, exercise, and seeking support from others are all examples of healthy coping techniques. Curling up into a ball and crying in the corner or digging into your third helping of comfort food is not the best way to go. Some will argue at this point, that when it comes to problems or issues that are lifelong (like an illness), it's not so easy to laugh or exercise the stress off. True, some stressful circumstances cannot change how we react to them, however, can.
Men have often been viewed as the strong, silent types, but women are not as fragile as they are often depicted. But who handles stress better? Queendom.com recently unveiled interesting results of their popular Coping Skills Test (Can you cope with stress?). Men and women and people of different age groups seem to differ as to how they keep their heads up when life brings them down. Queendom's data reveal that while men did outscore women in that they used more positive than negative coping techniques, it was only by a very slight margin (score of 60 vs. 59 respectively). In terms of coping strategies, when faced with stress, women were more likely to seek out helpful information (score of 60 for women, 54 for men) and social support from others (score of 53 for women, 47 for men). Men, on the other hand, were more likely to find ways to calm down, such as taking time to relax or finding an outlet - blogging, listen to music - to vent their emotions (score of 58 for men, 55 for women). In terms of unhealthy methods of coping, men were more likely to distract themselves (score of 61 for men, 56 for women), which isn't a problem per se as long as they face the stressor eventually, while women were more likely to ruminate excessively (54 for women, 47 for men), to feel helpless (40 for women, 33 for men), and to become unfriendly or argumentative (42 for women, 36 for men).
"Age differences were also quite distinct and in some cases, surprising. The use of healthy stress management techniques, like information-seeking, seeking social support, negotiation (compromising goals, changing mindset, or behavior in order to better fit within the constraints of the stressful situation), and positive cognitive restructuring (adopting a more optimistic view) tended to increase with age. Younger age groups (29 and under) were more likely to turn to distractions when under stress. Interestingly, the 30-39 age group were the most likely to ruminate (score of 58), to feel helpless (score of 41), to withdraw from people and social situations (score of 43) and to take their stress out on others (score of 44).
"Stress hits hard in the 30's," theorizes Dr. Jerabek, president of the company. "People are likely to be settling into a job and starting a family in that age range, and most people do struggle with balancing work and family life. As to why they scored highest on negative coping techniques such as rumination, helplessness, and opposition, they may be feeling at their wits end, too busy to take a breather or to seek out help. I can imagine people like this griping their grievances to older family members like their parents, only to be told that 'we all went through it'. Sometimes, people may feel that admitting that they're stressed is a sign of weakness - that they can't cope or are not made of the tough fiber like people in the 'old days'."
Without question, the negative impact of stress can be far-reaching. It's not uncommon for many medical experts to theorize that ongoing negative stress can lead to serious illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. On a more personal and social level, Queendom's data show that people who experience conflict more often, and who indicated that they are unsatisfied with their life and their job were, not surprisingly, more likely to resort to unhealthy methods of coping with stress. Queendom's data also reveal that, when faced with stress in their life:
- Only 50% of people indicated that they take time to relax.
- 45% indicated that they prefer to keep their problems to themselves.
- 15% of people indicated that they reject help from others.
- 16% admitted that they use drugs and alcohol more frequently.
- 36% said they turn to prayer or attend spiritual services.
- 31% said they hand their fate over to God or some external force.
- 30% joined a support group.
- 37% exercised.
Those who wish to take the Coping Skills Test and learn more about how they deal with stress can go to https://www.queendom.com/tests/access_page/index.htm?idRegTest=687.