The Mama Bear Effect (AKA the Tend and Befriend Stress Response)
Stress. Who doesn’t deal with their fair share on the daily. Nobody I know.
Can you think of anyone? Maybe a Buddhist monk or a yogi living in Costa Rica sustaining on mangoes and good vibes.
For the rest of us, stress is a major player in our lives.
Shifting the Narrative
Despite that reality, we don’t need to suffer through it, nor need we sit back and take it on the chin. Those are outdated mindsets and they do none of us any good. Let’s shift that narrative today shall we?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the different ways we respond to stress. Does “fight or flight” or “feed and breed” ring a bell? “Fight or flight” pertains to how we deal with a stressful situation and “feed and breed” kicks in when we are not stressed. Maybe you learned these concepts back in high school biology and never thought of them again. Or possibly you’ve been seeking your inner Zen for quite some time and keep getting thrown off by life’s curveballs.
Either way, this other aspect of the human’s stress response system may be new to you. Have you heard the term “tend and befriend”?
Women Are Wired For It
It’s more common to women and it goes like this. Women are wired to connect. We are wired to be caretakers and when facing a dangerous situation we look out for our kin and our kind. We respond to stress cerebrally more than physically; we’re more brain than brawn when staring down a proverbial “tiger”.
We are more prone to reach out to share what’s going on in our lives than to isolate when under stress. This lends friction to the male/female dynamic when it comes to talking through our issues versus guys trying to fix them…and that is a whole other blog post for another time so I will not go down that rabbit hole with you here!
Back to the “tend and befriend” nature of womankind. This response more than likely evolved back when humans lived in hunter-gatherer communities. While the men hunted, women harvested and cared for children.
The Mama Bear Effect
When we’re pregnant or nursing or corralling the wee ones, fighting or fleeing in the face of danger are not options. So, the “tend and befriend” option came into play. I lovingly call this the Mama Bear Effect.
Though female bears are often solitary, female humans are not. Our need for and ability to connect and collaborate goes back to our origins as a species. And in my opinion with the amount of stress we are under today, the “tend and befriend” approach is more important than ever.
Though most of us don’t come face-to-face with tigers in our day-to-day lives, our brains sure think we do, and they respond accordingly. Our stress response is dialed to MAX most days. That constant flow of stress chemicals has a way of wearing us down and having us on edge so that one more stressor could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends us over the edge.
By tapping into this innate bias for connection, the “tend and befriend” stress response can be a positive arrow in our stress-combatting quiver. And when practiced preemptively, it can aide us women in lightening the load. By gathering in community we can lend an assist to one another which will in turn build us up instead of tearing us down.
It’s Time To Lay This To Rest
It is common thought that women can’t work together, that we stab one another in the back and undermine our sisters to claw our way to the top. That is all archaic thinking and in my experience absolute horse pucky!
I love working with like-minded women and those who seek lives of meaning…don’t you?