It is believed that communication can solve many things. It not only solves misunderstandings but also allows you to explain yourself. And at times, a small chat with your friends can cheer you up in unexpected ways. Recently, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign learned that women who communicate with their female friends have lower levels of stress hormone across the lifespan.
What is this cortisol hormone?
This along with adrenaline is our fight and flight hormone. It is produced during stresses from a gland called the adrenal gland in response to a tiny region in your brain’s base.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure and boosts energy to counter stressful situations. Cortisol increases glucose levels in your brain and increases the brain’s use of glucose. It suppresses the digestive system, reproductive organs and growth processes. These short-term bursts of cortisol are required to help us recover from the effects of stress. But if these levels always remain high, they cause problems.
Normally, when you destress, these hormone levels return to normal. Then your BP, heart rate and all systems return to normal. Your endorphins or feel-good hormones increase, taking care of anxiety, depression, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, weight gain and memory and cognition problems as well, explained Dr. Shelly Singh Senior Consultant – Obstetrics and Gynecology Rosewalk Hospital.
This is why we should learn to react to stress in healthy ways. Though stresses are part and parcel of our modern life, we need to learn to manage them well. Ways to do that include healthy eating, exercise, yoga, meditation, interacting with nature, adequate sleep, and of course healthy bonding and relationships with our family and friends. And what better than girlfriends with whom you can have those heart-to-heart chats, girlie night outs, coffee dates, and parties. Keep those female friends close to you and talk your heart out. As we all know, girlfriends are “therapeutic” and we have a scientific basis to say that!
In today’s harried and hectic world, women shoulder most of the responsibility for nurturing and caring for the family. They are lost in dreary routines, trapped in obligations, and don’t have much time for self-nurturing. Navigating through the challenges of life leads to stress.
In a stressful situation, the stress response system in our bodies causes a rise in cortisol levels and is characterized physiologically and behaviourally as ‘flight or fight syndrome ‘. It means that short term release of cortisol can help you run quickly from danger while high levels of cortisol can lead to an array of health problems, said Dr. Loveleena Nadir, Senior Consultant – Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rosewalk Hospital, Delhi
Behaviorally female responses are more marked by a pattern of ‘tend and befriend ‘. Tending involves nurturing activities designed to protect the self & de-stress.
Studies point to the mechanism where Oxytocin & female reproductive hormones may be responsible for ‘Attachment -Care Giving System ‘ Evidence shows that females create, maintain, utilize social groups, especially of female friends to manage stressful conditions. This process helps to downregulate Hypothalamic Pitutary-Adreno Cortical (HPA) responses to stress.
Friendships impact communicative efficiency and cortical response.
Spending time with girlfriends leads to emotional equilibrium, provides a safe zone to be our authentic selves , creates an atmosphere free of judgment, improves happiness & Positivity by offering a supportive ear and lending a helping hand, she added.
Mounica Reddy, MBBS, MD (Pediatrics), Fellowship in Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology (RGUHS), Consultant – Pediatric and Adolescent Endocrinology, Pediatric Diabetes, Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Marathahalli, Bangalore
“Hello. A big shout out to all the superwomen out there juggling homely affairs and/or work and keeping peace at all fronts. But do you realize how this stress, in the long run, is going to affect your health? Our body has been wired to respond to one-time stressors by releasing certain chemical substances in the blood like adrenaline and steroids (cortisol) which help us to cope up for a short time and after the stress is gone, these substances come back to normal levels. However, if we perceive our day-to-day life demands as workload, paying bills, handling kids as stressors all day, these substances continue to remain in the blood and can be detrimental. This can lead to anxiety, depression, memory impairment, sleep problems, digestive problems, weight gain, and heart problems. So dear ladies, don’t let stress take control of your lives. Eat right, sleep well, exercise, take some time out (atleast 30 minutes) for your favourite activity/hobby, share your problems with friends, smile often and don’t forget to laugh at the face of trouble. Remember- you are special and you need to take care of yourselves too”