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Doing This Can Lower Cortisol Before A Stressful Event, Study Says


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mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer

By Sarah Regan

mbg Spirituality & Relationships Writer

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor’s in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.

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Luke Liable
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We can’t always tell when stress is going to strike, but when we’re knowingly going into a tense situation, it can help us to be prepared. And according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, there is one thing women can do before a stressful event to help keep cortisol levels down–here’s what they found.

Studying the stress response in men & women.

It’s no secret that consensual physical touch has a lot of benefits, but are there differences between men and women in how touch affects stress? That’s what this study sought to find out.

The researchers analyzed 76 people who were in romantic relationships in order to look at how hugging affected stress levels. They were instructed to keep a hand submerged in an ice-water bath for three minutes, all while being observed and looking into a camera (a stressful experience, no doubt).

But before that, half of the participants hugged their romantic partner, and the other half did not. The idea was to see whether hugging before the stressful event would influence the participants’ stress response, which researchers assessed based on cortisol levels in their saliva, their blood pressure, and their emotional state.

How hugging affects cortisol levels.

Based on the findings, hugging may, indeed, be an effective way to mitigate cortisol spikes ahead of a stressful event. Namely, the women who hugged their partners showed a lower cortisol response to the experiment than the women who did not hug their partners. (Blood pressure and emotional state did not seem to change with hugging.)

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Interestingly, those same effects were not seen in men, with the study authors writing, “These findings suggest that in women, short-term embraces prior to stressful social situations such as examinations or stressful interviews can reduce the cortisol response in that situation.”

Going forward, the researchers are interested to know if these results can be duplicated with platonic friends, as opposed to romantic partners. They also point out that it would be worthwhile to look into whether the pandemic’s impact on socializing and social touch could be making us even more stressed out than we would be otherwise.

The takeaway.

There are plenty of ways to mitigate stress, from getting enough sleep to taking a calming supplement to having a regular movement routine.* And according to this new research, hugging might deserve a place on the list too.

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calm+

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Next-generation stress relief, featuring EU organic hemp oil, ashwagandha, and lavender oil*

calm+

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Next-generation stress relief, featuring EU organic hemp oil, ashwagandha, and lavender oil*

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(18)

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