Avoid co-rumination as a strategy for stress – 26 Jan 2011

Women are more prone to depression than men is a fact we all know. One of the reasons could be the coping strategies women use to solve their problems. Studies show that men use their partners to discuss their problems and find solutions whereas women use their female friends to share and solve problems. This strategy helps in building friendships and stronger bonds between women which men do relatively in less degree. This coping strategy of sharing problems with friends if done excessively and obsessively can in fact become detrimental to health is what psychologists are researching on. A relatively newly coined term co-rumination is being studied among various age group populations of children, adolescents and adults and gender differences are being found! Girls from the age of fourteen upwards begin to co-ruminate more than boys say psychologists.

Co-rumination means focusing excessively on problems and negative feelings with friends without solving the problem. It means that you dwell on the problems and feelings repeatedly with your friends and keep recalling the bad memories without a solution. This leads to internalising the problems which results in anxiety, depression and general stress symptoms. This becomes a bad coping strategy instead in spite of the good trade off in increasing the bonds of friendship. Studies show that co-rumination results in increase in stress hormone cortisol and activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Women bond better with other women and thus create good social support networks which is important for them to live happier lives. Women like to share and indulge in ‘self disclosure’ to create relationships. Sharing and communicating positive experiences and positive feelings are important and useful. This leads to better social adjustments and friendships. But what needs to be understood is how they communicate and how they resolve problems when they share negative feelings. This has good learning implications for women and their communication patterns. Women should learn healthier coping strategies so that they live healthier and happier lives. Experts are talking of the abuse of social networking sites like ‘Facebook’ and mobile text messaging which is being overly used for obsessing over problems.

The idea is to find ways and means to solve the problem in the best possible manner leading to better personal and social adjustment. Since women are more emotional they therefore focus more on emotion-focused strategies which involve releasing pent-up emotions and discussing them. Men generally would use problem- focused strategies in trying to deal with their stresses. Problem-focused methods, try to deal with the problem by trying to find out more information about the specific problem and then focuses more on learning new skills to manage them effectively. Studies show that those using problem-focused methods cope better with their stresses since it leads to a perceived better control over their problems whereas emotion-focused methods will lead to a perceived reduction in control.

Women should learn better methods of coping such as distracting oneself into creative activities, managing hostile feelings and converting them to positive ones, praying, exercising, meditating and using systematic relaxation procedures.

Published in The Hitavada – Womens World 26 January 2011

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