Girlfriends Help Women Live Longerby Karen Vieira, MBA, PhD | December 23, 2007
Women deal with so many stressors in life and that is not to say men do not. It is just that women seem to take on more as wives, mothers and daughters. This is an addition to career stress which adds to an already full life. Stress is a normal response that we feel when we are overwhelmed and overworked. There are many women walking around permanently stressed out. How do we and how should we deal with the stress in our lives in productive ways?
There are new studies showing that close female friendship is one way as women we can hit the release valve on our stress. We need that bond with other women and yet as life gets busier and busier it seems to be the first relationship we sacrifice. When you feel stress the chemical reaction in your body is to take flight (run) or fight. This is an evolutionary necessity to survival especially for our counterparts in the stone age. Nowadays in our society there is rarely a need to fight for our life or run away to save ourselves so we are left with these feelings and need an outlet to release them. That is where friends can actually save your life. The Harvard Medical School released a Nurses’ Health Study that concluded that not cultivating and keeping our close friendships with other women is harmful to our health. Women with more friends tend to lead happier lives and suffer fewer premature aging issues. This may explain why women enjoy a longer life span than men. As researchers have looked at the reasons behind all this they discovered that women nurture each other in ways that only women can do and offer a time and place in this hectic world to escape the pressure of life. The periods of stress relief can add up to better health, better overall relationships and more effective mothering. As much as we would all like to talk to our husbands about things, they cannot always understand our life and the pressures we feel as they have a somewhat different experience. We are just built differently and other women can often understand your feelings better.
Every relationship in our lives is important but we have to resist allowing our female friendships to be pushed behind the other priorities in life. Make time for each other, everyone will survive and we are better mothers, wives and daughters when we put our female friendships on priority status occasionally.
Taylor, S.E., Klein, L.C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R.A.R., and Updegraff, J. A. Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: Tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 41-429.
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