Girl Talk Is Good Medicine

two women talkingI’m going to tell you something that you probably already know but may not have fully understood: women need their girlfriends, especially when things are going wrong.

Unlike men, who tend to want to hunker down alone or get out there and file a law suit when things get really stressful, we gals want to get together with other women and talk. We know it helps a lot and now we’ re beginning to understand why it happens that way and why it matters so much.

Recently, scientists at UCLA completed a major, landmark study that looked at women and friendships and found out that there was a definite connection between our relationships with other women and how we handle stress. For many, many years we have been taught that the normal human response to a scary or threatening situation is to gear up to fight or turn on our heels and RUN! You know, fight or flight. Think saber toothed tigers and stuff like that.

BUT … guess what? All those studies (more than 50 years worth) were based almost exclusively on the reactions of MEN to stress. The assumption had been that men and women were the same and would react the same to those gut-churning situations that pop up throughout our lives. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The new study found that when women are stressed, their brains release a bunch of chemicals including one called oxytocin which buffers the fight/flight response and makes them want to tend young children and gather with other women. The researchers call it “tend and befriend.” When they do that, even more oxytocin is released and they calm down and feel better.

It’s biological! We MUST have our friends close by when life throws us a hard ball. Other studies in the past have explored how friendships make us healthier and help us live longer. And again, we find that if women have a close friend or confidante they can survive even the worst possible events, like the death of a spouse, intact and okay.

So then, what’s wrong with this picture? When the going gets tough, our friendships with women are the first things we sacrifice. Not a good strategy, as we now see.

And since being a mom tops the list of stressful jobs, then it only makes sense for us to do what we must in order to protect our health and well-being. Otherwise, how are we going to be able to take good care of our families?

Enough said? Okay then, go call your buddy and make plans to grab a cup of coffee, make a mommy play-date, go for a walk together or pile the kids in the car and go to COSTCO together. Whatever it takes to carve out some time to keep your girlfriend connections strong, DO IT! And if anyone (like your husband, for example) feels threatened or left out, or gives you a hard time about slipping away for a spell with your homies, have him read more about the study for himself.

Once again, he’ll see the wisdom of your ways.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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One response to “Girl Talk Is Good Medicine”

  1. “I Can’t Get Over The Newtown Shootings”

    […] So make plenty of time to hang out with a good buddy and talk to her about your fears (check out Girl talk is Good Medicine for more on […]

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