Women’s Unique Stress Response: Key to Change

You have probably heard of the survival instinct labeled “Fight-or-Flight.” It’s a natural, biological response for humans and animals in the face of danger. What if I told you, however, that women also have another innate biological response to danger that is not so well known?

According to a study from the University of California, Los Angeles, led by Shelley E. Taylor and published in the Psychological Review, women respond much differently than men in high-stress situations (411). This uniquely feminine response may explain a lot of our daily dealings with our children and others, and it is what Mothering Humanity believes positions women as the perfect change-makers in an imperfect world.

Our natural response, as women, to stressful situations is not to put up our dukes or run away scared. Women are not initially concerned with self-preservation. This may not be a surprise to many of you. So what is our response? What does our biology tell us to do?

Taylor and her colleagues say, women “Tend-and-Befriend.” (Click the link to see the full scholarly article, courtesy of Harvard University’s online archives.)

At first glance, you might notice the word ‘and’ in our natural response versus the ‘or’ in fight-or-flight. As women, our response to stress is two-fold.

Not only does our mothering instinct kick in and we tend to those around us, but we seek to befriend in an effort to reduce risk.

Instead of battle, women look to peace. Instead of creating enemies and opposite sides, women seek alliances and nurture interconnectedness. Pointing to this distinct biological difference as part of the backbone of Mothering Humanity may seem divisive or counterintuitive (women vs. men)—the exact opposite of tend-and-befriend—but I whole-heartedly believe in you.

As the founder of Mothering Humanity, I believe women can bring out the best in all those around us and raise the next generation of peacemakers. This is an opportunity to embrace our biological difference and harness it to build a better tomorrow.

In addition to creating a beautiful and powerful web of women alliances, let us extend our tending and befriending tendencies to our partners, co-workers, community members, and online connections. Together, we can become the change!

In the true spirit of tending, I will continue to post helpful content here at Mothering Humanity, including more on this very important study, where I will break down both aspects of this theory and discuss how we can and are putting it to work in the world.

I hope that befriending all of you will be a natural result of our time spent together here and on Facebook, cultivating relationships and creating change within our own spheres of influence.

If you can’t wait to continue this discussion with Mothering Humanity and your curiosity is begging you to dive deeper into this topic right this instant, here are some helpful links:

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