Why Women’s Friendship Month Has Proven Stress Relief Powers for Women

September is Women's Friendship Month

Why Women are Driven to “Tend-and-Befriend”

Allow me to blow your mind: women are wired differently from men.  

Can I get an “Amen”?

So, why is it that women have been haphazardly lumped in with men when it comes to how we respond to stress?

You’ve heard of “fight-or-flight” as a response to stresses in the environment.  The primal, evolutionary cascade of hormones in the body that prepare you physically and mentally to protect yourself.  In men, their body is actually getting ready to fight, fix or flee if necessary.

Research out of UCLA is shedding new light on how these same biological responses to stress in women produce a completely paradoxical reaction.  As it turns out, “fight-or-flight” is a predominately male only response.

Rather than running, women connect.  Instead of fighting, women nurture.

This desire to affiliate with others is “one of the most robust gender differences in adult human behavior, other than those directly tied to pregnancy and lactation, and it is the primary gender difference in adult human behavioral responses to stress.”

This “Tend-and-Befriend” effect is unique to women.  

Stress causes the release of the brain hormone oxytocin in both men and women.  But in women, oxytocin output is higher and amplified by the presence of estrogen.

Rather than preparing them for battle, the physiological responses to stress in women actually:

  • Lessen perceived fear
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Promote maternal behaviors (Tending)
  • Urge affiliation with other women (Befriending)

When women are stressed, they cope by nurturing their children and/or seeking out women with whom they have a strong connection.  Social interactions in women have a calming effect not seen in men.

Created by Kappa Delta Sorority and supported by the Confidence Coalition, International Women’s Friendship Month encourages women to build and strengthen their positive friendships with other women.  

Use the month of September to reconnect with or celebrate the girlfriends in your life.  

Connecting with your close friends, in-person, by phone or through a handwritten note offers you an outlet for the social attention your woman brain so desperately desires during times of stress.

Nurturing friendships with other women will have you feeling calmer, more relaxed and more connected to those who support and help you deal with all of life’s stresses.

Ready to get started?

Seek out these 5 types of friends for optimal stress relief

Not all friendships are created equal.

But a diversity of friendships offers you a versatile inner circle.  Ready to offer support, encouragement and wisdom for anything life throws at you.

Sociologist and author Patricia Leavy has identified five common types of friends women should have in their inner circle.

Celebrate Women’s Friendship Month by honoring each of these types of friends in your life.  

Grab a pen and a couple of notecards and go through this list with your closest girlfriends in mind.

1. Springboards

These are your friends that you can bounce ideas off of.  

They may not have the answer to your problem, but they are great at guiding you to discovering your own solution to what is stressing you.  Helping you decode how you feel about relationships, work, marriage, or parenting.

Your next note to her may start with “Thanks for always listening and helping me sort through my thoughts…”

2. Mirrors

These friends often know you better than you know yourself.  

They always seem to offer you just what you need in that moment.  A hug, a smile, an ear to listen.  A girls’ night out.  A shopping trip or movie night.  These friends help you find the strength and energy to keep going through all life’s ups-and-downs.

Your note to her is easy. Just tell her what you would want to hear. She is your mirror after all.

3. Safety Nets

These friends have a way of always cheering you up.

No matter the circumstance you find yourself in, they’ve got a smile, a compliment and an encouraging word.  They never have a bad word to offer.  Always ready to tell you how awesome you look in that dress, your presentation at work was the best, or your kids are the smartest.

Take a moment to thank her for all of the encouragement she has poured into you. And return the words of affirmation by telling her how much her friendship means to you.

4. Tough Love

This is the one friend that will tell you the honest truth, no matter how much it may hurt.

They help you see the blind spots that you may not see.  The things you know are true, but are unwilling to admit.  They know you, understand how life works, and can tell you straight up what you need to hear the most.

Let her know that her tough love is appreciated. Share with her a time when her advice helped you avoid something tragic. Start with “As much as I hate to admit it, you were right.”

5. Silence is Kindness

This friend understands when you “just don’t want to talk about it”.

They are great at listening.  When words won’t come or they’re too painful, this friend is there just to listen.  No pressure.  No judging.  Just a quiet comfort and support during difficult times.

Just drop her a note to let her know you were thinking about her. For no reason in particular. And that you’re glad to know she’s there for you.

Over to You

Missing one?  September is a great month to build new friendships!

And of course, sometimes the best way to make new friends is to model what you are looking for in a friend. Always be ready with a word of encouragement or a listening ear.

How are you celebrating International Women’s Friendship Month?  

Head over to Google+ and let us know what you and your girlfriends are up to!


Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Pepe Pont.