Tag Archives: coping

Wellness Monday: Tend and Befriend

Bee and thistle.

A post shared by Elya Simukka (@elya365) on

This past weekend I vacationed with an all female group to celebrate a dear friend for her bachelorette weekend before her wedding. The retreat lasted a few days, yet I returned home feeling incredibly refreshed and happy. I don’t think I was alone. After the adventures, laughter, and special memories we enjoyed together I was emotionally elated and knew I had been engaging in something the field of Psychology has termed tend and befriend.

It is with this experience fresh in mind, the ladies’ time spent withdrawn from our normal environment, that I plan to introduce the phenomenon referred to as “tend and befriend”. While there is much more to explain beyond this post, this is supposedly a behavior that is more common in women when they reach out and use social connections with other women as a way to manage life’s stressors. It is a form of coping, and I argue a form of thriving as well.

This past weekend is a perfect example of tend and befriend, as an all women getaway was meant to celebrate a bride-to-be while also encouraging a sense of calm in everyone involved in this dramatic and positive life change. So, tend and befriend is a sort of coping that provides a calming effect as women engage fully in social connections with other women. Some studies have recognized the habit of sticking with female groups during duress to be true of human females and female rodents, while male rodents and male humans often prefer to be alone. Why is this so?

The answer to the sex differences is not be entirely certain, but there are a number of suggestions offered by researchers. As this behavior is noticed in both humans and other animals, it is likely to be related to an evolutionary need. One story, found here, suggests that mothers throughout time have needed to care for their young in order for the offspring to survive. In other words, staying put was a choice most likely to promote the survival of the young, while fleeing or fighting were less likely selections because of the low survival rate of the kids after abandonment or physical conflict.

Related to this question of sex difference, some research found here points to the chemical reaction that occurs in women physically as women tend and befriend. There is an additional release of the hormone oxytocin, that has an overall relaxing and stress reducing effect in individual women. It is possible that the same hormone may release in males, although the higher levels of androgens in the male body would counteract the hormone and thus have little to no effect. Men, also, may be socially conditioned (or trained by society’s norms) to choose solitude during times of stress.

All in all, tend and befriend is a behavior that is noticed most often in women as they gather in groups. Doing so has a calming effect related to chemical releases in the body. Read more about tend and befriend in the Wikipedia post on the subject by clicking here, but read with healthy skepticism as not all of it is cited properly.

Have you noticed the benefits of tend and befriend behavior? Do you notice others engaging in this way?

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Wellness Monday: Hooked on a Feeling

Dairy-cows-The-Fall

Photo source: http://www.collapseboard.com.

Did you know that cows have seven chambers to digest food? The process is called rumination because the grass eaten by the cow, must be digested seven times to digest fully. Thankfully, today we will discuss the human coping behavior referred to as rumination. We will not discuss multiple stomachs further, but we will discuss the repetetive act of focusing on the past.

Before diving into rumination, I’ll preface this post to explain that I will begin a mini series on mindfulness soon. Mindfulness is a behavior that can promote wellness in leaps and bounds. It also helps you avoid the negative psychological outcomes associated with rumination.

Rumination

Rumination is a behavior that does not promote wellness, yet I suspect many of us are occasional ruminators. While rumination may be an unfamiliar term, is is important to learn about it along with the signs. This knowledge could equip you with the ability to recognize and perhaps quit this habit, if you catch yourself or another ruminating.

What is rumination?

Basically it has to do with getting hooked on negative feelings of the past. It is defined as, “the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions” according to this article.

Rumination is similar to worry. Worry is a sort of anxious obsession with the possible negative outcome of future events, whereas rumination is an anxious rehearsal of past negative experiences, feelings, or events while excluding problem solving.

Signs or red flags that may indicate rumination:

  • negative thinking
  • trouble with problem-solving
  • interference with instrumental or proactive behaviors
  • loss of social support
  • a persistent focus on the self and one’s own problems
  • self-critical or blaming self for current problems
  • low self-confidence in the ability to overcome problems
  • a sense that problems are unsolvable or overwhelming
  • depression-like symptoms

Rumination is referred to as a maladaptive coping strategy. In other words, it hinders rather than helps. Coping strategies help us effectively cope with adversity and problems when they are adaptive, while maladaptive coping strategies disrupt coping altogether. (Most, if not all adaptive coping strategies are fall under the category of problem-focused coping-strategies. Likewise, maladaptive coping-strategies such as rumination are part of a category called emotion-focused coping-strategies. More on this another day!)

Equipped with the definition and red flags of rumination, you are ready to notice ruminating on your own. Recognizing and acknowledging is the first step. Developing adaptive strategies in the problem-focused coping-strategy is the next and final step.

Rumination is not the same as nostalgia, an emotion that also involves memories of past events. I will discuss nostalgia in the upcoming Wellness Monday post next week.

To prepare yourself for the talk on nostalgia, have fun taking this quiz to measure your own level of nostalgia by clicking here.