Last night I got a text at 8:30pm West Coast time from one of my favorite people back East. It read “Do you have time to talk?” It was close to midnight for my friend. I knew she must be feeling stressed.
We’re taught in school that the human response to stress is either fight or flight. Not true! For many of us, especially women, stress elicits a different response – what University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist Shelley Taylor calls “tend and befriend.”
According to the American Psychological Association often “females respond to stressful situations by protecting themselves and their young through nurturing behaviors–the ‘tend’ part of the model–and forming alliances with a larger social group, particularly among women–the ‘befriend’ part of the model.”
No wonder calling a friend when you’re stressed feels so darn good; humans, especially females, are hard-wired to do so. Researchers posit this response made sense evolutionarily as it was often more difficult for females, who were taking care of children, to fight or to flee. Building connections with other individuals was a powerful form of protection during stressful situations.
Friends can do a lot to keep us healthy. Having friends makes us less likely to catch a cold, more likely to live to 100, and just generally happier! Yet, sometimes when we get busy and stressed, we can neglect our friendships.
So call the next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, do what my East Coast homie did and phone a friend. Staying connected is key to your wellbeing! Extra points if you share with him or her what you are grateful for, starting with having amazing friends!