Social Support and Stress Management

Objectively, adult lives are more comfortable, less physically demanding, and easier than those in the past. Our health is far better, our life expectancy much longer, our standard of living visibly higher. Our jobs are less taxing physically. We have a safety net, which, whatever its inadequacies, is more extensive than anything that previously existed.

Yet, by most measures, adults feel more stress than did their predecessors. Time pressures have certaily mounted, and there’s also a pervasive sense of insecurity. Our jobs and marriages seem less stable and secure than in the past and our children’s future less predictable.

Stress is a chronic problem, one that can be managed but not eliminated. Exercise, therapy, positive thinking, relaxation, and reliance on routine — all have been upheld as techniques to relieve stress.

But the most effective ways to cope with stress lie in sociability and collective, communal rituals. Interactions with friends, conversation, and shared activities aren’t mere distractions. These are sources of meaning that place our stresses and anxieties in fresh perspective. Social support protects people from the bad health effects of stressful events by influencing thought and coping ability.

Summing-up: Our mental health hinges on sociability far beyond what most adults experience today. Social support provides for the successful management of stress and stressful events. It has positive effects on both the mind and body.

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