We all know stress and anxiety are bad for us. If left unchecked, these emotional problems can have serious physical effects. We spend millions of dollars every year on yoga classes and videos, relaxation tapes, massages, spa visits, and herbal remedies, all in a bid to reduce our stress levels and live healthier lives. The truth is, there a great and easy remedy for stress relief that costs little no money: go talk to a friend.
For years, scientists have been aware of the fight or flight response. When we are confronted with a stressful situation, our bodies produce chemicals. These chemicals induce us to either stand up and fight the situation, or run away. This is how science has always viewed the situation, till now. The problem with this theory is that it was based on research experiments using solely male subjects. Scientists believed that men and women responded the same way to stress; however, recent studies have shown that isn’t true. When women are confronted with stress, we produce oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding. This response probably developed so a woman would protect her family instead of risking her life or abandoning them in a dangerous situation. Nowadays it means that when women are stressed, we seek out friendship.
The fact that we seek out friendships when we face stressful situations still doesn’t explain why these friendships help women relieve stress. There are several aspects of friendship that help us lower our stress level.
* Help in time of need. We feel more stressed in a situation if we view it as hopeless with no way of escape. Having a friend there who will do anything for you can make a situation seem less hopeless because we know they’ll always be there to bail us out.
* Support. We can feel less stress in our lives if we learn to look at situations positively and cope with them accordingly. Having a friend there for support and encouragement can help force us to look on the bright side. A friend can also help us strategize and come up with solutions about how to deal with the situation.
* Laughter. A good hard laugh has been shown to lighten our mood, release stress, and give us a more positive outlook on life. Being around friends can help us smile and laugh, no matter how high our stress level is.
* An ear to listen. Sometimes we need to simply vent our frustrations out loud in order to feel better. We don’t need feedback; we just need someone with an open mind to listen while we rant. A good friend can provide this kind of support.
So if you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, get on the phone and call up a good friend. If you can’t call a friend, go out and make a new one. You’ll definitely be better off for it.