What? I know. I can read your mind. As a busy 40-something woman, you hardly have time now for yourself and all you activities. Why would you add another responsibility on top of that?
Because in the long, it’ll reduce your stress, help you learn more about the world around you in some small way and provide you with lasting friendships at this critical time in your wonderful life.
Just hear me out! Actually these wise words don’t really start with me. They are the results of research performed by Bruce Rabin, MD, the medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Health Enhancement Program.
His words: “Being socially interactive and [doing] thinks you want to do . . . whether that’s talking or sharing activities, can keep you healthier.”
It’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? I can see it now, can’t you? Imagine sailing out the door to your writer’s group or book club, calling back to your family in a lilting voice: “Going to my group! It keeps me healthy! Bye guys, the supper’s in the fridge!”
Wow! How in the world can they even argue with that! I think we’ve got a winner of a strategy here. Let’s go with it!
But the best part of this is that it’s true. There’s actually research to back this up!
It’s part of a newly discovered pattern typically found in women, called “tend and befriend”. Women -of all species, we might add, respond to stress in two traditional ways. The first is to “tend”. That means we tend to people, to our children, our parents . . . to others in general.
The other strategy we use to manage stress intelligently is to “befriend,” we seek out the company and solace of others. This response may also be based in biology (this is just a technical way of saying we just can’t resist doing it!), according to Shelley E. Taylor, Ph.D. She’s a psychology professor and principal investigator in a study that centered on this principle.
According to Dr. Taylor, three areas of our body are helped when we “tend and befriend”: our hormone oxtocin, our sex hormones, and our body’s natural opioid – pain killer – system. Now how can we argue with that, even if we’re not quite sure how all of this works together.
I always wanted to be part of a writer’s group. Finally, I decided that I needed to be the impetus in it myself. I put some feelers out in my community for a group – not age or gender specific, mind you. The result? A group of nearly a half dozen or so of us — all women! — meets regularly to read our someday-to-be-published novels, our articles that just showed up on the web . . . and our essays on any number of events occurring in our lives.
But more than that, each meeting is preceded by a lively discussion . . . hearty laughter . . . coffee and dessert with good friends . . . . and some sincere camaraderie of women close to my age and with similar interests.
Those no reason you can’t put up a flyer at your local library announcing a new writer’s group for the 40-something woman. Oh . . . you don’t write? No problem. Try organizing a book club for the 40-something woman.
Once you get the group together, a different woman can lead the discussion for each book – your discussions can be as in depth or superficial as you’d like. If you’re all serious readers they can be in depth. If, on the other hand, the book club is just a “ruse” to meet, have coffee and keep your sanity, then you don’t need to be literary giants to meet (if you know what I mean!)
Sometimes we all need a reason (some of us would call it an excuse) to meet and talk with other woman around our age or those who have similar interests. If you form an “official group” and make it a “date”, then you’re more likely to keep the rendezvous continuing from meeting to meeting.
If, on the other hand, you just say, let’s meet just to meet other “more pressing” issues in life pop up on your appointed day (Why is it that your husband always need something on your “special evening” out?)
The possibilities for group meetings are endless. Do you crochet, knit or needlepoint? These are great reasons to meet. You may also have a built-in group and not even be aware of it. In addition to your work, if you go to church regularly, there may be other women in our special 40-something category eager to make new friendships through a good hot cup of coffee and some stimulating conversation.
You know you deserve it! Your children are now old enough to take care of themselves. If you started your family later in life, your husband can handle them for a couple of hours. It’s a great reason for them to spend, quality time together. Both your spouse and your children will be building special memories.
Now start “befriending”!