Join the club. Unfortunately we’re all stressed, especially women. The American Psychological Association research study "Stress in America," reports that women are more fearful about the current financial situation than men. Women are reporting more physical and psychological symptoms, including sleep disturbance, headaches, mood swings and changes in appetite. In fact, more than one-third of women currently rank their stress level as "extreme."
Healthwise, stress can impact us in profoundly negative ways. We often react by partaking in unhealthy habits like overeating, drinking too much and smoking. Stress can elevate our blood pressure, affect our hearts, and impact our ability to sleep or concentrate. Emotionally it can make us anxious, fearful, depressed or paranoid. With the holidays here and all the traditional challenges they brings with them, now is a great time to find some stress relief.
How can women reduce stress? First, let’s look at how we process it. As women, we don’t have the male gene that causes a “fight or flight” response. We actually respond with a need to “tend and befriend.” We want to take care of our children and to be with our friends. (More on this in the book: “The Tending Instinct,” by psychologist Shelley E. Taylor.) Also, we are often the primary source of emotional support to children, men and other women – so if we’re stressed, it can impact everyone around us.
Unfortunately we individually can’t do much to stop the economic situation, but we can reduce our stress so we can take better care of ourselves and our families.
Here at Girlfriendology, the online community for women based on female friendship, we believe it is more important than ever for women to look out for ourselves and one another. Girlfriends make us healthier, happier, live longer, feel more beautiful and even reduce stress. These close social ties are therapeutic and healthy, especially in a time of high stress.
So, girlfriends – here are 10 ways women can reduce stress, with help from our female friends:
- Volunteer with a friend. Animal shelter or senior center, church group or a neighborhood organization--volunteering together doubles the fun. And, knowing that you’re helping others takes your mind off your own stress and reminds you of all your blessings.
- Simplify your lives--together. Take turns helping each other get organized. Help your girlfriend with household projects or have her join you in cleaning out your basement. Organize, declutter and to trust your girlfriend to help you make good choices in what to keep and what to donate or toss. Do a little at a time--no need to be stressed by the project!
- Phone a friend--still is a great lifeline! Sure, we sometimes send a quick email or forward a funny joke, but it takes personal communication to really connect. People love the sound of their friend’s voice. Give her a call to catch up. Plan a phone date at a time that’s good for both of you. I have a monthly coffee phone dates with a long-distance girlfriend. We plan a time to talk on the weekend when the free minutes are rolling. A few minutes on the phone together can totally erase all our worries simply through a caring, fun conversation between girlfriends.
- Start a girlfriend group. Gather friends and start a book club, running club, mommies group or gourmet club. Find a common interest and then meet up on a regular basis. Like a vacation, it’s something great to anticipate!
- Make plans to do dinner or lunch. Food + girlfriends = fun! Try a new restaurant or share appetizers at your girlfriends’ for a happy hour with the girls. Take a wine tasting or cooking class together.
- Take a yoga or Pilates class with a girlfriend. The exercise will help you physically, the girlfriend will help you emotionally – both wonderful outcomes for an hour of your time. Plus, you’re bound to find things to giggle about in class, which is worth the effort simply for the comic relief!
- Try some animal therapy. Pets, like girlfriends, are also a proven source of stress relief. Put the two together and visit a dog park with a girlfriend. You’ll laugh at the dog antics, personalities and owners. Or, take a dog for a walk together. That combines exercise, animals and friendship--add a nice day and you’re set for a super stress-relieving session.
- Be creative. Enjoy time together and forget about the stress in your lives by getting creative. Take a knitting class, plan a day to scrapbook, make cards, bead or try a new craft together. Crafting is also a wonderful way to get your mind thinking creatively which can lead to new solutions for your stressful life. There’s a reason women are so passionate about their pastimes--find your passion and some girlfriends who share that hobby with you and you’re on your way to happiness. And, you can make gifts for your girlfriends!
- Plan some together time for pampering. Go shoe shopping, get haircuts or massages, or share a cup of tea--together. Allow yourself some time together to take care of your inner girlie-girl.
- Get healthy together. The fact is: weight gain or unhealthy habits often accompany stress. Find an approach that works for both of you to get healthier. Get her to sign up for SparkPeople too and track your progress together. Hold each other accountable for eating right, exercising, encouraging each other and celebrating your successes. Stress diminishes when you’re healthy, happy, beautiful and with your girlfriend!
You see? Spending time with your girlfriends is an excellent way of reducing your stress and that of your friends. By taking this pre-emptive, proactive approach, you’ll both be healthier, calmer and even have happier holidays. Stress-relief by spending time with your girlfriends … it’s a great way to respond to whatever stresses you!
Girlfriendology is the online community for women based on inspiration, appreciation and celebration of female friendship.
Founded by Debba Haupert in 2006, Girlfriendology inspires women to make new female acquaintances, spend time with their girlfriends, and appreciate those friendships that are vital to women’s health and happiness. Girlfriendology.com features inspiring women in semi-weekly podcasts, contests to share girlfriend stories and provides videos, shopping, reviews, blogs and more.