A call to mom relieves stress

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A new study to be published on May 12 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found a mother's voice can quell her young daughter's stress with a quick phone call.

Three researchers at University of Wisconsin Madison stressed out a group of tween girls aged 7-12 in front of strangers and divided them into three groups where different treatments were applied. One group's mothers were present to calm them down, another spoke to their mothers on the phone and the last group watched an emotion-neutral 75-minute video.

"The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone," said Leslie Seltzer, co-author of the study and biological anthropologist.

She explained, "It was understood that oxytocin release in the context of social bonding usually required physical contact. But it's clear from these results that a mother's voice can have the same effect as a hug, even if they're not standing there."

Oxytocin, a hormone linked to bonding, love and trust, triggered by mom's voice can measurably lower the presence of the stress hormone cortisol and "it stays well beyond that stressful task. By the time the children go home, they're still enjoying the benefits of this relief and their cortisol levels are still low," said Seth Pollack, co-author of the study, psychology professor and director of UW-Madison's Child Emotion Lab.

"Apparently this hormone, oxytocin, reduces stress in females after both types of contact, and in doing so may strengthen bonds between individuals," Seltzer said.

A call to mom "may be a quick and dirty way to feel better. It's not pop psychology or psychobabble," added Pollack.

"It's hard to get cortisol up. It's hard to get oxytocin up," said Pollack. "That a simple telephone call could have this physiological effect on oxytocin is really exciting."

If calling your mom before a stressful presentation is not convenient it might be worth testing if a recorded message from her that you can playback whenever the need arises can help. Sometimes moms just know what to say but if the reaction can be had just from the soothing tone of her voice, start using your smartphone's voice memo feature to save a soothing stress reduction message from mom.

Full study, "Social vocalizations can release oxytocin in humans" accessible via the online FirstCite edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on May 12: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/firstcite