by Julie Mills-Watson
As I sit and think about this year’s Mother’s Day, I thought I would take a few moments to emphasize the importance of “girl time”. I feel so lucky that my work allows me to experience wonderful bonding with my female clients. When receiving body work, many emotions are released. Our bodies are wired to keep our emotions in and they manifest in the form of knots and aches and pains and sometimes even disease. Part of my job is to provide a safe space for my client to let those emotions go and to begin healing from the inside out. Let’s talk about how women are wired and why it is so important for us to have friendships.
As a woman, I already knew that my “girl time” was important and actually kept my sanity at times. However, I did some research and found a landmark UCLA study that suggests friendships between women are very special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our male relationships, and help us remember who we really are.
Researchers suspect that women handle stress in more ways than just fight or flight. In fact, says Dr. Klein of UCLA, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. Men do not have this response due to high levels of Testosterone released during stress. The Estrogen in women seems to enhance the oxytocin and produce a calming effect.
It was noted that when the women were stressed, they came in to work, cleaned the work space, had coffee, and bonded with other female coworkers. When the men were stressed, they holed up somewhere on their own and did not interact with coworkers. Wow – this part of the study sounds so familiar. When I am stressed or have a lot on my mind, I get into my cleaning mode or call my sisters which help me think things through and unwind. My husband, on the other hand, says nothing and has the unique ability to quietly disappear.
It is interesting to me that nearly 90% of the stress research has been with males. With this new research, the fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health. It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the “tend and befriend” notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There’s no doubt that friends are helping us live longer.
Every time we get overly busy with work and family, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women. We push them right to the back burner. That’s really a mistake because women are such a source of strength to each other. We nurture one another. We need to have unpressured space in which we can do the special kind of talk that women do when they’re with other women. It’s a very healing experience. Have you had your much-needed girl time? Make this month your month and have a very happy Mother’s Day.