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Stress—better with friends

How to deal with stress? Starting with your friends might be the answer.

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 Dan Murray-Serter
Dan Murray-Serter
May 05, 2020
2 min read

When you were a kid, stress never really entered into things. Sure, minor squabbles over crayons or who got to play with what toy but never really stress.

The only scary thing was after dark, when all of a sudden there were beasts, hairy monsters or gremlins (nothing is more terrifying than a gremlin,) hiding in every cupboard, shadow, or under the bed.

Of course, you realise as an adult that monsters aren’t really the issue. Us grown-ups have scarier stuff to deal with, and it’s all stress-related.

The dangers of stress

Open any health mag or listen to any wellness podcast, and you’ll likely be faced with the dangers of stress on your body. The results are just as stressful as the issue itself - with more possible physical and psychological effects than we can count.

We're just scratching the surface here, but things like high blood pressure, reduced immune function and disrupted sleep can all be attributed to stress.

The secret to handling your stress response and avoiding those myriad symptoms might be a lot closer than you think. Super close actually, like… as close as your best mate.

The Answer? Don't go in there alone

Researchers in this study found that when faced with a really steep hill to climb, people who were with friends perceived it as much smaller and easier to tackle than those who viewed it alone.

In another study, people were asked to judge how formidable an alleged terrorist was - and again, those who saw him alone viewed him as larger, more muscular and more threatening than those who saw him with their friends.

So, your response to a stressful situation is way less extreme if you have friends around you.

Friendships of the right kind

It’s not enough just to have friends; you need to reach out to them and be in their company at times of stress in order to reap the benefits. (Even if that feels like that last thing you want to do at the time.)

The kind of friendship you have matters too. If they’re open to talking and willing to be vulnerable, they’ll be a lot more effective to help when you’re stressed than your sarcastic friend that you love—but will only make fun of you.

For more information on how friendship can mould our brain, read Alain de Botton's piece for Heights here.

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