The Fight or Flight Response Comes Into Question.
The tend & befriend response: The female reaction to stress.
The term “fight or flight" was coined by Walter Cannon in 1932. The theory is simple: When under stress (ie: a huge saber-tooth tiger appears), we either prepare for battle (fight) or we run away as fast as we can (flight). In the face of something frightening, a surge of stress hormones (namely adrenaline) cause the heartbeat to increase, you begin breathing faster, and your entire body becomes tense and ready to take action.
But that science was based on men.
A little known fact that the “stress response” was developed primarily by testing male subjects: Female hormones were just too variable because of the cyclic nature of women.
Let that sink in…women were intentionally omitted from the studies because their hormones were more variable.
Fast-forward to the year 2000
In the year 2000, Taylor et al. proposed that the primarily male based research may have caused us to overlook a unique female stress response which they termed “tend-and-befriend." It’s theorized that females release oxytocin (the LOVE hormone—generally associated with labor and lactation) in response to stress, and this release of oxytocin is responsible for the “tend and befriend” response.
Oxytocin has been nicknamed the love hormone because it is associated with feelings of empathy, trust, sexual activity, social bonding, and maternal behaviors. It is found in much higher levels in females than males.
When oxytocin comes on board during times of high social stress or pain, it may "lead people to seek out more and better social contacts," says Taylor.
Natural Selection: Rethinking Groups
Historically, befriending has many benefits for women and their children, namely protection. Females couldn’t fight or flee while pregnant or caring for their children. The formation of female groups would ensure that offspring were cared for and would also aid in the defense if a threat were present: Being part of a group would increase the likelihood of survival.
While modern day stressors aren’t quite as extreme as in the past, we are constantly bombarded with micro-stressors day in and day out. The stressors have changes, the stress has not.
So if every fiber of your being is longing for a tribe of sisters, it’s because it’s engrained in your physiology!
Adult friend-making aint easy.
It’s challenging to make new friends as an adult. It’s even more challenging to make new friends as a mom of little kids: a friend who doesn’t mind conversations being interrupted every 30 seconds by a screaming toddler or yet another last minute cancellation due to sickness.
Community is our biggest core value at Luna, and we strive to be a space that fosters LOVE, support, and CONNECTION.
For women, having support is not only important, it’s crucial and it’s engrained in our DNA. Having a village of like minded friends is the ultimate form of self care!