When men tough out stress, stress wins. Unrelieved stress causes headaches, backaches, neck pain, lack of energy, sleeplessness, weight problems and skin issues, not to mention that it can exacerbate heart disease and autoimmune disorders.
Yet, men typically try to “soldier on” despite all the clues sent by their stressed-out bodies. There are very real, gender-based, physical and cultural reasons for this. For spa owners and managers, this tendency of men to downplay stress creates problems for both guests and staff, including resistance to treatment.
According to the International Spa Association (ISPA), 47% of spa-goers are male, part of a continued growth from 31% 10 years ago. At the same time, men make up nearly 35% of all spa employees in the U.S. So, whether you’re concerned about clients or staff members, the physical symptoms of stress among men deserve special attention and care.
So, what makes stress different for men versus women? The old theory that women are emotional and men are stoic has long been disproven, and we all know that emotional responses like stress are expressed in every gender and gender identity. The mechanisms of stress are also the same across all genders, but we should be aware of important differences between some men and some women.
Stress increases several hormones, including cortisol and epinephrine. Together, these two hormones raise blood pressure and sugar levels until they trigger the release of oxytocin, which has a calming effect. Unfortunately, males typically release less oxytocin than females. Therefore, men are more likely to have a fight or flight response than women, who are more likely to find relief in reaching out to others.
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With her unique background in medicine, neuropsychology, leadership development and coaching, Cynthia Ackrill, MD, PCC, FAIS, brings compassion and science to stress management. A certified leader in the field for more than 25 years, Dr. Ackrill (www.cynthiaackrill.com) understands the challenges and metrics unique to the spa and wellness industries.