Work friends make us feel a whole lot better in times of stress.
Why is that?
This notable study, published in 2000, was the first to look at how women, in particular, respond to stress. Prior to this research, most stress studies focused on men. Rather than the typical “fight or flight” response common to most men under stress, women showed a greater propensity toward what these researchers coined “tend and befriend.”
The theory goes that evolutionarily speaking, female animals have a need to protect their young. Staying calm and sticking together are two ways that a threatened female might utilize to keep themselves and their young safe against more aggressive threats. It is thought that oxytocin plays a role in this because its effects promote maternal and affiliative tendencies, along with decreasing the revved engine of the sympathetic nervous system.
Women aren’t the only ones who produce oxytocin; men do as well. They just may not see the benefits quite as strongly; androgens have been shown to hinder oxytocin production during times of stress, while estrogen appears to increase oxytocin’s effects.
If having meaningful relationships is indicative of a mitigated stress response, perhaps developing work friendships is a way to improve our stress resilience. Making friends may be your best bet when it comes to surviving and thriving in the highly stressful healthcare jungle.
10 Ways to Foster Work Friendships
- Grab dinner after work: There’s only one rule — no talking about the job. Learn something new about your co-worker that has nothing to do with who you see in the workplace every day.
- Help out your fellow nurse: Jumping in to help out a friend will increase your connection and make you both feel good.
- Compliment a co-worker: Nothing feels better than hearing a kind word from another. They’ll likely return the favor.
- Play a silly game at lunch: Have some fun, even if it’s only 5 minutes of laughter.
- Invite a group to a bowling night: Some healthy competition and a little lighthearted heckling is a great way to strengthen friendships with co-workers.
- Host a group discussion about a healthcare issue: A good heart to heart during a patient care lull will amp up the friendship factor. Be sure to maintain an environment of non-judgment so that all feel comfortable sharing.
- Start a lunchtime group walk at work: Endorphins + Friends = Happy Connections
- Share knowledge: Whether through precepting, mentoring, teaching a patient or hosting a mini-staff meeting to teach something new, sharing knowledge helps make you feel connected to another.
- Start a fantasy football league: A fun activity that is sure to garner lots of chatter and camaraderie (and maybe a little adversarial fun).
- Host a nurse retreat: Connect with one another through a self-care extravaganza.
How important to you are your friends at work? Tell us about them!