Skip to main content
Young man talks to his mom on the phone to reduce stress


Contrary to what you might think, science says Mom can calm you down.

Sometimes the best stress relief can come from a familiar source: your mother.

Sure, you might occasionally get on one another’s nerves — that’s normal — but when you feel as if you can’t handle it all, the mere sound of Mom’s voice has the power to soothe your anxiety and make the panic go away.

It all has to do with biology. A recent study discovered that when stressed-out young girls dialed their moms for emotional support, there was both a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in levels of oxytocin — the brain chemical that helps form bonds and gives off a warm, fuzzy feeling.

“The idea was that picking up the phone and calling someone would be like giving them a hug,” Dr. Seth Pollak, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an author of the study, said in an interview with Health magazine.

Pollak and his co-researchers recruited 61 girls between the ages of 7 and 12 to participate in an anxiety-inducing assignment: give a speech or solve a math problem before an audience. The subjects who talked to their mothers afterward — either in person or by phone — tested high for oxytocin and low for cortisol. Those who didn’t speak to Mom saw their stress levels rise.

And if you don’t happen to be a tween? No matter. The study also pertains to adults who seek solace in the calming salve of their mother’s voice.

So that big presentation keeping you up at night? Worried your boss is going to hand you the pink slip? Feeling generally on edge? Go ahead, call your mom. Sometimes, that’s all you really need.

Want to know more? Learn the science behind headaches in our educational video.

Stress is one of the leading causes of headaches for many people. See our complete list of articles on about stress for more information.

Become a headache expert.
Sign up for the 5-week Headache Boot Camp