How we deal with stress in our everyday life is different for each person, but some groundbreaking research from UCLA is showing that there are some very distinct differences in the way men and women deal with stress. So much so, it’s bringing into question the whole fight or flight response.

For nearly 50 years, stress research has been done almost exclusively on men. The assumption was that the fight or flight response was a human reaction to stress but now it’s becoming apparent that it is a male reaction.

In stressful situations, the hormone oxytocin, is released and this true for both males and females. According to Shelley E. Taylor who is the main researcher of the study, Behavioral Responses to Stress in Females, she says, “Animals and people with high levels of oxytocin are calmer, more relaxed, more social, and less anxious. In several species, oxytocin leads to maternal behavior and to affiliation.” The study suggests that the way this hormone reacts with the gender specific hormones of estrogen and testosterone make the male and female reactions to stress very different. When the hormone oxytocin is released as a part of the stress response in women, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages us to tend to children and gather with other women instead. This has lead to the coining of the term “tend and befriend” as a female reaction rather than the fight or flight.

The study suggests that the more oxytocin is released, the further stress levels are reduced and a calming effect ensues. This calming response does not occur in men, though, because of their high testosterone levels. This “tend and befriend” reaction may also explain why women consistently outlive men.

Studies have found that social relationships can reduce the risk of disease because they lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol.

Some studies suggests that people who have no friends increase the risk of death, but yet, those that have a high number of friends can cut their risk of death by more than 60%.

But this also can lead to living a better life.

A Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School found that the more friends a woman had, the less likely she was to develop physical impairment as she ages and the more likely she was really happy and fulfilled life. The results were so significant that researchers have concluded that not having close friends or confidants is as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight.

So if you’re having a particularly stressed out time, your best remedy may be to spend some time with the girls.

Some other ways to help women deal with stress:

Relax. This could include meditation, or massage, or yoga.

Make time for yourself. It is really important to take care of yourself no matter how busy you are. You should make an effort to take at least 15 minutes a day out of your schedule and do something for yourself. Go for a walk, take a bubble bath, or just spend some time alone.
Sleep. It is recommended that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Adequate sleep can help you tackle problems and lowers risk of illness.

Eat right. Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins and avoid caffeinated drinks.

Exercise. This is a fantastic way to deal with stress because it releases endorphins and this helps to improve your mood.

Take up a hobby. Find something you enjoy doing, like gardening or cooking.

Set limits. Learn to say no and stop stretching yourself so thin.

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