The Power of Girlfriends

We’re all under a lot of stress. Women, in particular, tend to take on not just a lot of the work at home, but also the majority of the management of the household, in addition to holding down jobs outside of the home. I’m not going to list everything we’re juggling here, because we all know what that list entails– everything. Reviewing day planners line by line is stomach-turning, and it can dredge up fears that, even though we’re doing as much as we can, somehow we’re not doing enough or being enough – we’re…failing.

It seems nonsensical to suggest that the cure for our stress over not having enough hours in the day would be to carve out even more time and then not work during that time. But fitting in time to socialize does exactly that.

landmark UCLA study suggested that women respond to stress uniquely, by caring for those around them or socializing with friends. This “tend-and-befriend” response in turn releases oxytocin, a hormone that increases our proclivity to bond with others and which modulates feelings of anxiety and stress. Our natural response to stress actually begins a self-perpetuating and self-healing cycle. Getting together with your girlfriends doesn’t just make you feel better, it can increase your overall health outcomes– another long-term study found that poor social integration was associated with a 66% increased risk of death.

For years now, I have tried to meet up with a group of friends at least a couple times a month, and anecdotally, I can tell you that we are much closer for it, and I’m much less stressed out because of it. (I haven’t died yet either, for what it’s worth.) Girls Night: come for the wine and snacks, stay for the friendships, anxiety relief, and lower risk of untimely death!

The Girls’ Night I’m talking about doesn’t involve 2 hours of makeup, $1 shots, and high heels, although those can be fun, too. This is a Girls’ Night In: a low-key chill session at one of our homes. At a recent get-together, after hours of talk and laughter and snacking and wine, I asked my friends why they came to these nights– “What do you get out of this? Why is it important to you?”

The responses were all over the board, but everyone started by saying that they missed their friends and loved seeing them and catching up on each others’ lives. Others were grateful that they didn’t have to censor themselves– that here, they could be themselves, with no judgment. Some were relieved to have a break from their kids or jobs and a chance to talk about something other than Peppa Pig or the big project at work. Some were seeking relationship or work-related advice from a female perspective. Others just needed to be heard.

Being able to enjoy the benefits of a Girls’ Night In isn’t as difficult as our stressed-out minds make it seem. We don’t have to add to our workload by organizing a Peak Pinterest Instagrammable Event, complete with a theme, activities, party favors, and a playlist. Something as simple as sending out a group text that it’s BYOB Girls’ Night In and you’ll be serving cheese and crackers can get the ball rolling.

Just think of it this way: if your best friend invited you over and their house was a mess, they served chips and dip, and you brought your own wine, but you also got to spend the next couple of hours talking and laughing (or sometimes crying) with them… you’d still go. This is about building each other up, instilling confidence in one another, throwing a lifeline to friends who are struggling, and helping each other understand that we’re not in this life alone.

I hope you’re encouraged to host or attend a Girls’ Night In soon—your body, mind, and soul will thank you.

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