Causes of female and male depression and anxiety might be quite different from each other. It is not known for sure if stress affects men and women differently. Generally, as the two genders often operate in different social contexts, both tend to develop different emotional dispositions and personality traits. Accordingly, their responses and coping mechanisms to stress situations vary.
Women, in these days, have a lot of balancing to do between home and workplace, including balancing between social and personal requirements. The issues of maternity, menopause, parenthood, gender roles, conditions at home and workplace, familial and social support et al, often blight women`s lives in the long run.
Social and Work Stress
Sociological researches assert that family structure (working or stay-at-home mothers, and other models) affects performance and employee attendance either directly or interactively. Family demands and family attitudes were found to influence the absence frequency at workplaces.
Experiencing a high level of burnout was associated with increased absenteeism if employees had children under six living at home or reported having difficulty with their child care arrangements. There is a strong relationship between social support and mental stress and trauma in women. It relates to a woman`s help-seeking attitude, social networks, kinship networks, and support networks. Besides these factors, adapting to a new workplace culture and reformations tends in job sectors, affects men and women alike.
Gender Role Quantity and quality of leisure time distribution between the genders is an interesting index of how women get burdened with stress for either natural or social obligations. Multinational Time Budget Data Archive and the Australian Time Use Survey suggests that women are now bearing a 'dual burden' as both family providers and family carers. Although men and women have similar quantities of free time, when the character of leisure is considered the gap between genders reemerges. Absence of reciprocal and joint emotion management within family is a nagging stressor for women. Mostly mothers handle the bulk of the parental responsibility such as educational and emotional care of children. This can be physically both and psychologically draining.
Beside PMS, the other most nagging stressor coming from hormonal changes in women`s body is the menopausal phase in one`s life. Women go through a lot of anxiety, tension, worry, emotional suppression, and a lot of physical and mental stress, before and during menopause, even f they are aware of its eventuality.
Doctors define menopause as the time after 12 months have passed since your last period. Every woman experiences menopause differently, starting from the age of 30 to 50s . Signs and symptoms are also very individual.
One may breeze through menopause with few symptoms, or may experience a number of physical and emotional changes. Changes such as:
• Unpredictability of periods.
• Realization of uncomfortable truths such as loss of fertility and sexual capability.
• Changes in appearance due to fat accumulation in body and emergence of facial hairs (presence of small amounts of the male hormone testosterone).
• Hot flashes occurring in the upper body (the face might look flushed, and red blotches may appear on your chest, neck and arms lasting from 30 seconds to as long as 30 days, one may feel chilled, weak and slightly faint).
• Sleep disturbances and night sweats followed by chills (one in four midlife women experience insomnia. Lack of sleep may affect one`s mood and overall health), ultimately leads to the predictable result of stress and emotional strain in women.
• As a women goes through menopause, women may experience mood swings, be more irritable or be more prone to emotional upset.
Other stress factors that can occur in this stage of adulthood such as the illness or death of a parent, grown children leaving home and in some cases, change in the pattern of emotional relationships with one`s spouse, add to the ongoing physical stress.
To Minimize and Manage the Psycho-Physiological Effects
• Schedule regular checkups and consultations with your physician about diet, nutrition, drugs or hormone administration.
• Be open to adopt a positive lifestyle change, which could be physically and spiritually fulfilling and suitable for your personality type.
• Avoid caffeinated beverages and exercise right before bed to avoid sleep trouble and insomnia. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation does help.
• Apart from identifying what helps trigger hot flashes (smoking, spicy food, hot beverages, alcohol, warm room et al), getting regular exercise and dressing in layers can manage the condition.
• Wear cool cotton clothing to bed and keep an extra set handy, in case of night sweating.
•Taking a balanced and nutritional diet is a must. During this phase body needs at least 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium supplements.
• Abstain from smoking. Smoking can increase the risk of heart diseases, stroke, cancer and a range of other health problems.
• Take stairs instead of an elevator or park farther away from destination. Better still walk down to your destination to stay positively active. Vigorous exercises such as aerobic, brisk walking, jogging and dancing, and strength-training exercises, can be excellent protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, and most importantly stress.
Much of the causes of male depression and stress, arises from their self nurtured identities, especially related to their professional status. 'If you ask a man who he is, the first thing he says is his work—I`m an executive, I`m a doctor, I`m a housebuilder,' says Glenn E. Good, an associate professor of educational and counseling psychology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. 'Suppressing feelings and internalizing stress are acquired male traits', says Good, 'On some inner level, it comes down to: If I can`t tough it out, then I`m not much of man.'
For men workplace stress can have extreme consequences. In Japan, work stress related suicide rate among men has risen over the last 15 years. According to the Government`s Statistics Bureau, the highest suicide rate occurs in men from 35 to 44 years old, making it the 13th most common cause of death for men. Newspapers carried the triple suicide story in March 1998, when three Japanese men—all heads of car part companies—took their lives on the same night. The reason they gave is—Poor Company Finances!
Uncertainty in workplace can cause high levels of stress. Lack of information or the actions of other people can negatively affect your ability to perform. Causes of uncertainty can be:
• Not having a clear idea of what the future holds
•Not knowing where your organization will be going
• Not having any career development plans
• Not knowing what will be wanted from you in the future
•Not knowing what your boss or colleagues think of your abilities
•Receiving vague or inconsistent instructions
What Can Help
•Learning to communicate—even if it means transcending traditional male egos. Trying to openly resolve conflicts at work and even seeking outside support from counselors, support groups or co-workers can bring a sea change in your attitude to handle stress. 'When men start admitting their insecurity,' says Hope Hills, president of Circle Consulting Group in Milwaukee, 'especially to their colleagues, there can be a real change in their level of stress and comfort with themselves.'
•learning not to give much importance to each and every work that comes in your way.
•Making the body stronger and more able to withstand stress is an important step towards managing stress. Learning relaxation techniques—such as meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing or yoga—for 15 to 20 minutes during the work day, can be effective stress busters:
•Learning to recognize a stressor.
•Not putting unjustified demands on yourself to perform better and more.
•The most effective way of countering cases of uncertainty in workplace is to ask for the information you need. If you ask in a positive way, generally, people are usually quite happy to help.
This syndrome is often known as the male menopause and occurs between the age of 35-50. The phase is often described as the end of a beginning, and beginning of an end. It is much like adolescence revisiting you once again, but with a different agenda.
This transitional point emerges with two fundamental elements of crisis where there is a sense of urgency along with intense emotions and confusion. According to a description of midlife crisis in the lesson4living (lifestyle website), 'At midlife the meaning and purpose of the first half of life begins to fail. The agenda is no longer focused on differentiation but integration. We must give up the identity we worked so hard to get so we can become more.'
Myth or Fact?
Though most men deny the existence of any such phenomenon as `midlife crisis`, there are tell-tale signs of behavioral and attitudinal changes on their part. In the early stages—at around 35—men tend to avoid the topic saying, 'I`m too young to have it'. During the typical age-range—40 to 50—they become defensive with explanations such as, 'It is not happenning to me'. While on the finishing line they may try to avoid the topic dismissing its existence altogather.
Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Are The Way They Are, has denounced the male midlife crisis as a myth. He maintains that the transition holds true for both men and women. For women this phase occurs at the age when the last child leaves home, which generally concures with the onset of menopause. For men, the phase comes when they feel that they have reached a quiescent period in their career. Farell feels that the phase is not a `crisis` as it is thought to be. He explains that since most men are at the peak of their career and influence around this period, they see this time an opportunity to achieve and do all that they couldn`t do earlier, however capricious the methods may be.
But, the facts show that `crisis` or `not` midlife in men is definitely metamorphic in character.
According to the Briggs-Myers model (First, identified by the psychologist Carl Jung in the early part of the 20th century, and expanded on by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers) one may show such symptoms of `Mid-life transition/crisis`, as:
•Discontentment with life and/or the lifestyle that may have provided happiness for many years.
('Midlife is when you reach the top of the ladder and find that it was against the wrong wall.' —Joseph Campbell. The ladder can be career or personality growth, marriage or family.)
•Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest and dominated your life.
(Such as walking out of a relationship or marriage. After 20 years of married life you may suddenly wake up to the feeling of being trapped in the relationship.There could be a confusion—of feeling burdened, and yet oddly free at the same time. It is possible that you are avoiding a confrontation with midlife transitions, and your own disappointments are being projected on to the marriage. The feeling can make you mentally disconnected with your spouse)
•Feeling adventurous and wanting to do something completely different.
(You may be tempted to do things that are uncharacteristic of your age or maturity—frequenting discos; showing interest in extramarital relationships—almost always with women half your age or drawn towards alcoholism and substance abuse. Even though our preferences are innate, our behaviour and perception of ourselves are modified in order to `fit in` with the various situations (personal/social) in our life. Jung called this process `Accommodation`. Especially, such `accommodated` individuals tend to break free from their set `personae` during this transition period.)
•Questioning the meaning of life, and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before.
(This is that time of life when you can neither act like a youth—which was very much a part of you, nor are you prepared to accept old age as yet. You may feel frustrated about your perspectives on life you have been carrying untill yesterday. The compulsion to change can create a lot of angst and irritability in you.)
•Confusion about who you are, or where your life is going.
(Confronted with this transition, you may rethink about the worthwhileness of the life you have been leading. You may feel you have run out of time chasing wrong targets all along. Because, you may have to depart from the priorities you have been concerned with. You may feel stranded on a cross road, thinking about the validity of all these experiences.)
Taking It Head-On
•All transitions are difficult, but, it is better to take the changes as something normal, natural and unavoidable. It helps to take the journey by equipping yourself with a roadmap—understanding the point where you are and what your destination should be.
• You are likely to face another major identity crisis. The demand to depart from your established identity is greatly resisted from inside. You must let go much of the experiences that piggyback on you into midlife.
• It often prompts you to look back in life and search for a better meaning of it. It prompts you to ask, 'Is this all that there is?' you must be open to this awakening, accept the challenge to investigate life more. It can be a facilitating process in becoming a `whole` person, through personal growth.
• Many times people tend to retreat into the pattern of clinging on to youth and try in vain to recapture it. The anxiety, frustration and depression born out of it can lead one to a blind alley. As life means progress and not stagnation, the golden rule could be learning to move on with it, and avoid stress by remodeling one`s thinking and attitudes towards life.
How To Cope With Your Husband`s Midlife Crisis: • Have patience. Let him learn to cope with the new feelings and emotions that he is encountering. Don`t try to help him understand his problem, as the social conditioning of behaving `like a man` may make him feel insecure and put him on the defensive.
•Give him space. If he wants to spend less time with family and more time with his friends, don`t cling, berate or belittle him. His behavior may make you feel insecure and even cause anger in you, but, retaliation on your part can make things worse.
• Even if he blames you for his disenchantment with the present life, don`t relent. Don`t take the responsibilty for his midlife turmoils. Let him identify the real cause of his problem.
• There is no point suggesting him to go for counseling since he is unlikely to accept that he has a problem. It might help, if you rather try to cope with your feelings and the overall situation.
•If he is feeling insecure, let him know that you love him and are with him. But, make it a point not to expect any thing in return, even though it is difficult to practice.
•Even though you played no part in the creation of his crisis, how you behave at this juncture will define your future relationship
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