Women And Stress
It's what we've all suspected for a long, long time: Women respond to stress
differently than men do. Fortunately, we also have a better way to fight it:
( Each Other )
Friendships between women are special.
They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our wild and
noisy inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us
remember who we really are.
But they may do even more.
Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually
counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a
Until recently, it was generally believed that when people experience stress,
they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and
fight, or flee as fast as possible.
Now it is suspected that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just
'fight or flight'. In fact, it seems that when the hormone Oxytocin is
released as part of the stress response in a woman, it buffers the fight or
flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other
When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest
that more Oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces
a calming effect.
The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic
moment shared by two women scientists, who were talking one day in a lab.
There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed,
they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded.
When the men were stressed, they would run away and hold up somewhere
on their own.
Further studies have shown, Oxytocin encourages us to care for children
and hang out with other women; but, the "tend and befriend" notion
may explain why women consistently outlive men.
Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by
lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.
There's no doubt, that friends are helping us live longer.
In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had no friends,
increased their risk of death over a 6-month period. In another study, those
who had the most friends over a 9-year period cut their risk of death by more
Friends are also helping us live better. Not having close friends or confidantes
is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight! Yet, if
friends counter the stress that seems to swallow up so much of our life
these days, if they keep us healthy and even add years to our life, why is it
so hard to find time to be with them?
Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is
let go of friendships with other women, we push them right to the back burner.
That's really a mistake, because women are such a source of strength to each
other. We nurture one another, and we need to have un-pressured space in which
we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they're with other women.
It's a very healing experience.
To all of my dear women friends...
May our connections deepen,
may we be a safe harbor for each other and may we continue to keep each other healthy.