How to Reduce Stress by Connecting with Other Women

How to Reduce Stress

Wondering how to reduce stress? You may know from experience that you just feel better after spending time with a girlfriend or a group of female friends. Whether you’ve laughed, talked or simply been in each other’s presence, chances are you come away from those interactions feeling lighter, less stressed or ready to get back to what’s happening in your life fueled by fresh energy or a different perspective.

Not surprisingly, longstanding scientific rationale explains why that happens. (After all, research often backs up what humans have described experientially for ages.) In this case, back in 2000, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that women’s responses to stress are often marked by a tend-and-befriend pattern, rather than the typical fight-or-flight response. As the study notes, “Tending involves nurturant activities designed to protect the self and offspring that promote safety and reduce distress; befriending is the creation and maintenance of social networks that may aid in this process.”

So, both biological and social factors contribute. Social networks among women create, essentially, a safe space. That positively engages the neurotransmitter oxytocin, female reproductive hormones and opioid peptides in the body, and reduces the response of the stress hormone cortisol.

How to Reduce Stress Through Connection

If you already have a close female friend or group of friends you spend time with, and it feels positive and nurturing, keep doing it. If you find yourself wanting to get together more often, look for creative ways to make that happen — even if you live at a distance or have busy schedules. Rather than waiting until you can find that chunk of time you keep meaning to set aside for an in-person get-together, go ahead and take advantage of apps that save the time and costs of travel and enable you to see a friendly face online. Call more often, even if it seems so, well, ’90s. Short, meaningful check-ins can go a long way toward reducing stress and helping you feel more connected between in-person visits.

If you don’t have close relationships with fellow women and you’d like to cultivate them, it’ll likely take a bit of courage and willingness to do so. Start by tuning in to your own inner knowing for what’s true for you. Do you connect better one-on-one, right from the beginning, or are you willing to consider being part of a group and allowing personal relationships to unfold?

If you do better with one person at a time, be open to how those opportunities may show up. Once you decide that you’re willing to engage, things tend to happen. You might meet a potential friend in the course of doing the activities you enjoy. Maybe you’ll have a conversation with a coworker that leaves you feeling like you’d like to get to know her better. Pay attention to internal nudges, repetitious happenings and synchronicities, because they all conspire to get your attention. And if parts of you feel anxious or hesitant about extending an invitation or initiating new friendships, gently reassure those parts. Update them by letting them know how old you are and that you’re a capable, competent professional woman who can navigate this situation successfully and take care of yourself (and them) in the process. (Often these vulnerable parts see you as much younger than you are and feel they need to protect you, rather than vice versa.)

If you feel more comfortable in groups, or you’re willing to try a group setting as an entry point for potential one-on-one connections, search for groups in your area that do things of interest to you. From crafting and “stitch and bitch” groups to reading and adventure clubs, women’s social groups can be found with a simple online search. And if you can’t find one that works for you, why not create one yourself? You can infuse it with the intention of what you desire to experience — authentic connection, tending and befriending, fun and more. You’ll be doing yourself a service, and probably many other women, too.

Keep in mind that groups, like people, have an energy all their own. As you seek social connections that feel nurturing and align with who you are, it’s okay to remove yourself from a group or personal interaction that doesn’t resonate as good or healthy for you. Trust your own inner knowing about what’s right for you, and let it help lead you to what feels meaningful and beneficial.

Kristen is a connection coach who helps business, mental health and medical professionals reduce the time, energy and effort it takes to get unstuck. To sign up for her free webinar, “Closing the Gap: Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” visit her website at beinganddoingnow.com.

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