Wisdom Workout


Tend and Befriend

By Susan McNeal Velasquez.

We all have stressors in our lives that are unique to the societal landscape we live in today. The fight/flight concept as the automatic response to stress has been applied to both genders for decades.

This familiar metaphor represents the notion that when we experience overwhelming stress, it triggers an individualistic, aggressive ‘kill-or-be-killed’ response to stressful times.  Recent research has uncovered data that the “fight/flight” concept appears to apply to men much more than to women.

I think back to my childhood and the demands of that time period. My mother birthed and raised 11 children (no twins), hung the laundry on a clothesline (in New York, think snow), made our “Sunday go to meeting” clothes, baked, canned fruit from the fruit trees, and still created leisure time with my father as they sat on the screened-in porch on a summer night with cherished friends, had a “woman’s night” at someone’s home each month, and my father had his monthly men’s poker game hosted at a different home each time.

They had full, rich lives filled with a lot of work, but balanced by big family picnics, leisurely days at the beach, a neighborhood yacht club where the elders sat on the huge rap-around porch socializing while we were in the big center room being taught line-dancing, playing games or having a Friday night dance.

Recent research has uncovered that prior to the mid-1990s, only 17 percent of the participants in studies of biological responses to stress were women.

A psychologist, Shelley Taylor, PhD, and her colleagues at UCLA developed the “tend and befriend” theory of stress response, observing that “the human response to stress is characterized at least as much by tending to and befriending others, a pattern that is especially true of women.”

Not surprisingly, the expansion of the theory that seeking out social support is crucial, as well as the importance of nurturing interactions, is acknowledged, not only as a great form of stress relief, it is vital to our health and well-being. The research goes on to say that “ties with family and close friends is as protective of our physical health and wellbeing as the food we eat and the sleep we get” while “social isolation increases the risk for all causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, accidents and suicide.”

As our society continues to shift from role-oriented duties and responsibilities to a more individualistic, “fashion your life according to your own needs, values and personality preferences,” both women and men are faced with increased stressors that may make “tending and befriending” a crucial and deciding factor in our ability to create a life in which we thrive as lovable and capable human beings.


Susan facilitates small group personal awareness seminars locally. Her book, “Beyond Intellect: Journey into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind,” is available at Laguna Beach Books. For more info, visit beyondintellect.com.


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