A chill is in the air, the leaves are falling, and for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, the rain is coming. I have found many ways to adapt to the long, wet season- I have the protective outerwear, I make a winter reading list, set some art/craft goals, bake more, and I do still hike and bike in the rain. I also intentionally plan some festive gatherings with the people I treasure. It is very tempting for us to stay in once we get to our warm, dry homes, and for many Autumn and winter encourages patterns of introspection and isolation.
My challenge to you, Wild Women, is keep our houses warm with hospitality, and to celebrate and support our female friendships this fall. Invite your friends over, attend events together, confide in each other over a steaming mug of tea, coffee, cider or a glass of wine. Learn to listen, let your hair down.
But….the holiday season is coming, and it’s such a busy and stressful time…when I get home, I just want to get in my PJS and watch Netflixx! I hear you, but check this out this study on how women respond to stress, and how crucial our female friendships are:
One landmark study (by Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor) on the relationship between friendships and stress, discovered that women react to stress differently than men. “This difference is due to the different proportions of hormones that are released into the bloodstream. When men and women are stressed, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine are released together, which raise a person’s blood pressure and circulating blood sugar level. Then oxytocin comes into play, which counters the production of cortisol and epinephrine and produces a feeling of calm, reduces fear and counters some of the negative effects of stress. Men release much smaller amounts of oxytocin than women, leaving them to feel more acutely the effects of the flight-or-fight response. Men tend to respond to stress by escaping from the situation, fighting back or bottling up their emotions.
Taylor contends that women, on the other hand, are genetically hard-wired for friendship in large part due to the oxytocin released into their bloodstream, combined with the female reproductive hormones. When life becomes challenging, women seek out friendships with other women as a means of regulating stress levels. A common female stress response is to “tend and befriend.” That is, when women become stressed, their inclination is to nurture those around them and reach out to others.
Another study underscoring the importance of friendships was conducted David Spiegel who studied the survival rate of women with breast cancer. He found that those women who had a strong, supportive circle of friends outlived by many years their counterparts who lived in social isolation.
The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that the more friends women have, the less likely they are to develop physical impairments as they age, and the more likely they are to lead a contented life. The study also showed that not having friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as being overweight or smoking cigarettes. The researchers examined how well the women functioned after the death of a spouse, one of life’s greatest stressors. They found that even in the face of this major life loss, women with close friends with whom they can share their burdens fare better than women who lack close friendships.
Whether is it with friends, family, a therapist or a support group, women find it healing to tell their stories. We want to talk about our emotional experiences and to process what has happened and what we might do going forward. If friendships can enrich our physical and emotional lives, the question becomes why so many women find it challenging to nourish them. Ruthellen Josselson, author of Best Friends: The Pleasure and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships explains that when we get busy with our work and family, the first thing we do is push away our friendships due to lack of time or energy. We lose sight of the strength we provide each other and the healing benefits we derive from our friends. As the research suggests, we need to build and maintain these important bonds to protect our physical and emotional well-being.”
Benefits of good friendships and social support:
Enhance quality of life
Boost the immune system
Fortify physical and psychological health
Promote optimism and positive moods
Help manage trauma and loss
Provide a sense of belonging, security, and community
WhiteHeart Henna and Holistics encourages the gathering of women and self care by offering henna services for private events and gatherings, and treating every guest like the queen that they are. Make time for yourself, foster your friendships. Light those candles, put the kettle on, and let our hearts burn bright.
Contact email@example.com to book a henna artist for your wild woman gathering. For rates, visit whitehearthenna.com homepage.