The Hard Facts: Stop Stressing

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“A small new study shows that during stressful times, being around a best friend decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” (“Best Friends Can Help You Beat Stress”; HuffingtonPost.com, 9/29/2011)

This feels like old news by now, doesn’t it? Oooh, look at this, friends are good for your health.

What else is new?

And yet, every Wednesday, I remind you. Because it’s so easy to forget. Or ignore.

Stress is the type of plaguing misery that might inspire you skip a night out with the girls. I don’t have time, you think. I’m too stressed.

I get it. I have the same thoughts. A lot.

How convenient, then, that hanging with friends will actually lower our stress. It’s been proven, people. Spit tests were involved. Saliva has all the answers.

In a study of 100 children from ages 10-12, “during an unpleasant experience, the kids who were with their best friend didn’t produce as much cortisol as kids who weren’t around a friend during the stressful time.”

The fact that 10-12 year olds were used for this study might inspire some questions. Namely, what does a pre-teen have to be stressed about? How long they have to wait for the new Bieber album? (Only 20 more days…) Which photos they’ll tag on Facebook??

I kid, I kid. There are stressors to be had during those awkward years. But one might argue that juggling adult relationships, jobs, and family, is a bit tougher.

Still, I’d counter that adult BFF bonds are stronger too, so the effect is likely the same. I know that whenever I’m stressed, my best bet is to go to my cooking club. Or book club. Or on a girl-date. Spending  time unwinding and talking girl-stuff lowers my heart rate. I never notice it in the moment… but always during the drive home. I’ll turn on the radio and think, “Wow, those chest pains are gone.”

See?  No chest pains = pretty good news.

Moral of the story: Don’t use the stress excuse. ‘Cause your ninja friends are totally going to turn it on you, and prove just why you need them more than ever. BFFs are smart like that.

Do you notice your stress levels going down when you spend time with your best friend? Or does just the idea of friend time induce anxiety?

6 Comments

Filed under The Search

6 responses to “The Hard Facts: Stop Stressing

  1. Anonymous

    There is also a report in the journal of Health Studies that shows that having friendships at work is linked to living longer. In fact, lots of studies these days are finding an association between longevity and friendships. I will find the links and send them on. Niobe

  2. It depends. I was supposed to have a phone date with a bff last night. I was in a really awful mood – like the type of mood where when we have our daily catch up I get more anxious because I start comparing out problems and wish I had hers. Not a good time to talk and commiserate. Turns out she was also having a bad night – we did text a little bit. We’re going to chat tonight. But I wanted nothing more than to just be close enough that we could have sat and commiserated (silently and without talking of course) together probably while eating ice cream and talking.

    So, I guess it depends. But if it’s a bff and they are close, I definitely think just having them around would help.

  3. Megan

    For us introverts, hanging out with friends can be MORE stress-inducing, not necessarily less. Though I do have some friends that lower my blood pressure. So I’d say that, for me, it depends on the friend (and the particular stressor at the time).

  4. It’s more stress-inducing if they’re toxic… which is a good indicator of who I shouldn’t be spending my time around! Otherwise – it’s absolutely helpful. Love those friends I can sit with and not say much, and still feel better🙂

  5. Renee

    For sure, hanging out with sympathetic friends is a great way to unwind, but I always thought that when it comes to children’s stress vs. adult stress, one might not necessarily be “tougher” than the other- it’s just that with adults the stakes are usually higher, and they have more practice at dealing with it.

    But as far as brain chemistry is concerned, stress is stress, whether it’s over a career-making job interview or breaking the living room window with a nerf ball.

  6. Stacey

    I always feel better after hanging out with my bff. I think my blood pressure must go down within moments in her presence.

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