A New Study Shows The Simple Gesture Helping Women With Stress

With everything going on in the world, it's understandable that your stress levels might be a little out of control. When you're trying to balance work, education, finances, family, and still have time for some semblance of a social life, finding a moment to relax feels almost impossible. If you are feeling extra stressed out, consider turning to your significant other for some relief.

Studies have found that when you're in love, your body knows it. There are significant health benefits to finding a long-term partner. According to WebMD, people in satisfying relationships are less likely to develop depression and anxiety, they tend to visit the doctor less often, and they're less likely to get a cold than a single person.

While being in a relationship has plenty of benefits, it does come with its own set of stressors. Sustaining a happy, fulfilling relationship takes time, patience, and a lot of open communication, which some might find to be stress-inducing. Luckily, a recent study found that one simple act of love can reduce stress levels almost instantly even before extremely intense events. All you need to do is stretch out your arms.

Hugging for 20 seconds may seriously reduce your stress levels

When you're feeling stressed, it might be time to hug it out. According to Fortune Well, a study in the journal PLoS One found that hugs can decrease stress levels. The study monitored cortisol levels, the hormone that causes stress, in couples ages 19 to 32. Half the couples were asked to hug their partner for 20 seconds and then place their hands in ice water for three minutes. The results showed lower cortisol levels in women who embraced their partner versus those who did not, concluding that women found the embrace of their partner to be a source of relaxation before doing a stressful task.

This is not the first time hugging has shown to be beneficial. Hugging has been known to increase oxytocin in the body, also known as "the love hormone" (via Harvard Health). Studies found that frequent hugging can actually boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and prevent anxiety attacks in certain individuals, per SCL Health. So, if your partner's love language is physical touch, squeeze them extra tight knowing that their love is calming you down. 

Unfortunately, not everyone in the study found major benefits to hugging. Willingness to receive physical affection in a social setting was a big component of the study, which many men did not seem too relaxed about.

Men are not seeing the same stress reducing benefits from hugging

While women might have found a way to destress just by hugging their partners, it doesn't seem to work both ways. The PLoS One study also found that the men who hugged their partners before the experiment saw no change in cortisol levels, concluding that hugging their partner had no effect on their stress levels, per Fortune Well.

Don't worry, guys — you may still be able to reap the benefits of a warm embrace, but you'll have to break down some social norms first. The scientists who conducted the study concluded that since gender is "socially constructed," men can learn to destress when receiving a hug. However, they must first break down gendered implications to allow relaxation to happen during an embrace. Simply put, a vast majority of cisgendered men have been subconsciously taught not to rely on physical affection for emotional support. But, as society continues to break down gender barriers and debunk this way of thinking, hopefully more men will find a way to destress between the arms of their sweetie, or even a good friend! Romantic love is not the only way to find relief from stress: Piedmont reported that having a good network of family and friends around provides more ways to cope with stress, regardless of gender.