Man in blue hood covers his face with his hands looks overwhelmed Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

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.

A bear bearing his teethPhoto by mana5280 on Unsplash

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.  

A hand writing a checklist in a notebookPhoto by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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.

Quiz

Roger has an exam tomorrow, and is feeling stressed about it. What could he do?

Go over his notes again

Form a study group

Worry about it tomorrow

Take an online practice quiz

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.

A woman looking stressed at a table supports her head in her hands

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

  • Exhaustion

  • Feeling depressed or anxious

  • Headaches

  • High blood pressure

  • Digestive problems

  • 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.

a woman leans on another woman for support while both sit on a couch

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.

Two men walk towards each other, and high five

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

  • Enhancing self-esteem

  • Lowering cardiovascular risks, such as lowering blood pressure

  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle

Plus, it's just fun!

Quiz

You find that you're constantly busy, frequently worrying, and just on edge. You suspect it's stress. What should you do?

Take a walk

Make plans with, and talk to a friend

Quit all of your obligations

Hide in bed

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.

Three women together laughingPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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).

Take Action

Two icon people high five

Still feeling stressed? Consider reaching out!

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This Byte has been authored by

RH

Robin H

Volunteer Learning Designer