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Tend and Befriend Stress Response

The tend and befriend response is also hardwired to when we were living in caves.  Historically, it is a female response and involves social interaction and communication that will mobilise the young, the pregnant, the elderly and the injured to a place of safety when there is a threat to the community. Mobilising a number of individuals who require assistance is difficult if there is no trust or appropriate communication at the time of threat.

Since the early 1900’s there has been continued study into stress responses. One pivotal study by Shelly Taylor in 1998 included both males and females as opposed to initial studies that used only males as test subjects. Taylor identified the typical style of responses based on social interactions. While still hormonally driven, these responses used social networks to address perceived threats. Cortisol [the stress hormone] was still released; however, oxytocin rather than adrenaline was the main driver of the response. Oxytocin is generally regarded as the ‘caring’ hormone. Rather than dealing with the stressor as an individual, people using these stress responses either ‘tended’ to those around them [particularly those in their care] or ‘befriended’ others to mobilise assistance and tackle the stressor as a team. They still managed to gain an outcome and deal with the stressor but in a social way.

The tend and befriend response is about taking care of those around us when there is a threat. It is about communicating with people in preparation for a perceived threat and then in that trustful communication style being able to mobilise people when things are going wrong. Think going to a hairdresser and chatting about all those little problems we have [yup a more particularly female response but still relevant all the same].

Stress Response Task

[Refer to Page 20 of workbook to complete this task]

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