We all experience stress from time to time, but it's hard to know what to do about it. What are its effects? How can you cope with it? What's within your control?
It's important to take action against stress, and social time can play a role in helping you through stressful times.
What Is Stress, Anyway?
Stress is a state of increased physical and mental arousal caused by events that activate our body’s fight or flight response.
Stress can be very useful. Imagine if you come across a bear while hiking. Stress helps your body prepare to fight the bear or run away in order to keep you safe.
Stress isn’t always associated with bad events, either. Positives events like starting a new job, or planning your upcoming wedding, can produce stress too.
Roger has an exam next week, and is feeling stressed about it. What could he do?
Why Is Stress Bad?
Where it goes wrong is when we have prolonged, chronic levels of stress that impact our daily lives. Because the body is constantly on high alert, you don’t have time to recover, leading to the exhaustion of your body’s resources.
When we get stressed, our body produces hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. During periods of long-term stress, high levels of these hormones can cause:
Trouble with memory
Aches and pains
Feeling depressed or anxious
High blood pressure
Weakened immune system
What Is Social Time?
Social time is the time you spend interacting with the people you have in your life — your social support network. It gives you the feeling that you're cared for, that you belong, and that you have others to lean on in times of need.
Social support can look like:
A friend listening to you describe a challenge you're facing
Playing a game of dodgeball with a group of friends
A family member checking in on you when you're feeling down
A co-worker offering to help you with a new task
A family member validating your feelings
How Does Social Time Help Me?
Social time with your support network can help create resiliency. While it won't always get rid of stress, spending time with loved ones can help us cope with the negative feelings of stress.
Social time increases oxytocin — a chemical in our brain that produces positive feelings. It may also make us less vulnerable to our environmental stressors.
Studies show the benefits of social support:
Improving the ability to cope with stressful events
Alleviating the effects of negative emotions
Promoting good mental health
Lowering cardiovascular risks, such as lowering blood pressure
Promoting a healthy lifestyle
Plus, it's just fun!
You find that you're constantly busy, frequently worrying, and just on edge. You suspect it's stress. What should you do?
How Do I Make The Best Of Social Time?
If you already have a great support network, great! Find ways to prioritize spending more time with the people in your life you're closest to.
Here are some tips for keeping those connections strong:
Stay in touch with your friends and family — initiate spending time together
Be a good listener — friendship is a two-way street
Tell them you appreciate them
Give back — let them know you're here for them too
If you find that you're lacking a close social circle, you may need to put in a little effort to find your new circle of besties (and check out this Byteif you're a student in need of a new social circle when school is out).
Still feeling stressed? Consider reaching out!