Stressors are different for men and women

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Health: Your Choice with Cheryl La Rocque

Researchers have proven women and men respond to stressors differently because they have chemical and/or structural differences in their brains.

Statistics Canada reports women are more likely to voice their stress than men and they react to different types of stressors. While women are more stressed by time constraints, meeting others' expectations, and family-related issues, men are more affected by work-related stressors and financial difficulties.

Researchers indicate these behavioral differences are likely partly due to chemical and/or structural differences in the brain, and many of these responses are programmed in the brain at an early age.

Research by Tara Perrot-Sinal associate professor with the Psychology and Neuroscience Department at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia has contributed to the understanding of these differences in stress- related responses.

Dr. Perrot-Sinal's study, partially funded by the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation (NSHRF), looked at the changes in the brain that occur in the early years of development.

Dr. Perrot-Sinal's key findings included insights into the chemical realities behind early stress response programming and the process by which the brain becomes 'male' versus 'female' (termed sexual differentiation).

Dr. Perrot-Sinal’s findings indicated parental care has a significant impact on the development of stress responses.  The results also have important implications that can affect policy on child development, poverty, education, and intervention for at-risk family situations.

Understanding stress is important to health researchers exploring how to treat the multiple medical conditions stress can cause or aggravate, and to determine whether women and men require different types of treatment.

While it is true women and men respond to stressors differently, it doesn't mean those differences are any less important. Stress is what it is -- stress or distress.

That said, most people would agree taking more personal time to relax is a vital component to help reduce stress.

The following is a quick and simple exercise to help you diffuse some of your stress and achieve a state of relaxation.

Take a seat in a comfortable chair. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Repeat this again, but more slowly. Do you feel a little better? Try this again, but close your eyes and let your mind relax by picturing a thought that gives you a pleasurable feeling -- inhale slowly. Now, let your breath out slowly. How do you feel? Better? If you want to, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like until you feel relaxed.

Relaxation is vitally important to your emotional and spiritual well-being. However, there is a bigger picture to this "relaxed" state. The power of relaxation includes the power and biology of your beliefs – your spirituality.

It is very easy to get caught up in the negative stuff of life. But if you can manage to take the time to reverse this process and refocus on the positive things life has to offer, the results could be an increased feeling of wellness, fewer symptoms of illness, and, an improved outlook on life.

The power of belief and its effect on health and wellness have been researched for many years. Dr. Herbert Benson, author of the best sellers, The Relaxation Response, Beyond the Relaxation Response, and Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Beliefs, has spent over 30 years examining and developing the findings of spiritual beliefs and their effects on health and healing.



Organizations: Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Statistics Canada, Psychology and Neuroscience Department Dalhousie University

Geographic location: Halifax, Nova Scotia

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