How Important Is Social Support In Managing Life Stressors?

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Stress (e.g. emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, social) is an everyday part of human existence. One cannot definitely expect to live a life without it because our world isn't a perfect place to live in. Experiencing stress is regardless of one's age, sex, education, social status, or country of residence. Nobody is exempted from it.

(Related Post: How to Handle Financial Stress the Healthy Way)

From a Christian point of view, human race has to face all life's hurdles because sin entered the world. In Genesis 3: 16-19, we can read the consequences of sin.

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Stress is the product of how our mind, body and soul react to the constant demands of our internal and external environment. The most we can do is to accept it and find ways how we can develop healthy adaptation skills-- one of which is through having social support.

What is social support?

Social support is a network of people in a one's life that is available during times of needs-- whether that need be physical, emotional, social, spiritual, or financial in nature. Its availability creates the perception that we are being genuinely cared for and accepted by those people around us. This kind of support may come from our parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, or pastor/priest.

The extent, in terms of both quality and quantity, of social support we receive can be directly related to our happiness and health.

Physical Health and Social Support

Physical health refers to the condition of our human body systems (digestive, respiratory, integumentary, circulatory, endocrine, nervous, muscular, skeletal, immune and reproductive systems) and each part that belongs to it. In addition, concepts such as nutrition, weight management, strength, endurance, flexibility, and longevity are also related to our physical health.

As cited from an article published in Journal of Health and Social Behaviors, results from several studies have suggested that those with less social interaction are at greater risk for death. These findings were also true even when certain socioeconomic, status, health behaviors, and other variables were considered.

In the same article, it was mentioned that low quality and quantity of social involvement is linked to conditions like:

  • cardiovascular disease,

  • myocardial infarction,

  • atherosclerosis,

  • autonomic dysregulation,

  • high blood pressure,

  • cancer and delayed cancer recovery, and

  • slower wound healing.

How social support helps people to be physically healthy can be partly explained by the idea that our social ties influence and motivate us to observe and maintain healthy behaviors (e.g. weight management though exercise and healthy diet, smoking cessation, good personal hygiene, etc). These people who genuinely care for our health feel that they are partly responsible for our well-being. This may also be particularly true when a social support person, like a spouse or child, encourages a person to comply with his prescribed treatment regimen.

Emotional Health and Social Support

Emotional health refers to the state of a person's psychological well-being. Our emotional health is put on stress every time we encounter unavoidable life difficulties.

The following are some examples how our social ties can help us maintain our emotional well-being:

  • They are willing to listen to our problems, worries and fears. We all want somebody to listen to us as we voice out our sentiments in life especially when we feel that the rest of the world has turned its back away from us. Suppressing our emotions can be detrimental to our health because it could lead to mental exhaustion. At times when we desperately need somebody, people who actively listen to us during those times make us feel that we are fully accepted, even if they don't really say much or if they just keep silent.

  • They could give us healthy recommendations or suggestions. The recommendations or suggestions we receive give us a sense of personal autonomy and support our decision-making skills. We become active participants to determine which course of actions we should take next in order to solve our problem. This is different from someone giving premature advice to us which somehow negates our ability to participate the decision making.

  • They may provide us with valuable information. Once we encounter a specific life stressor, we are almost always compelled to make a decision. Sometimes, our decision-making capabilities could be clouded by extreme emotions leading to bad decisions. A social tie who is knowledgeable (from experience or formal education and/or training) on what a person is currently going through can help that person make an informed decision which is based on facts or information.

  • They may serve as companions and laugh with us through tears and smile through pain. Laughter is the best medicine (a well-known saying). Many believe that laughter and humor (without sarcasm) can promote psychological health. This can somehow be explained by the idea that mirth, just like other positive behaviors, can distract our mind away from extreme serious thoughts of the negative circumstances happening to us. It allows us to be joyful and positive and to look into the funny side of our problems. By temporarily distancing from our negative emotions, we can regain sound perspectives, see the whole picture, and plan and implement our next steps with good judgment. Nobody enjoys failure and choosing to remain in that situation by letting its power overtake your whole life is an easy way to emotional breakdown. Let loose of all those negative vibes by sharing some laugh and humor with a loved one.

  • They allow you to be just yourself. There are times when we are forced to change our own nature because it is what the world expects from us. As we start to feel that we are losing our own identity, sadness also starts to crawl in because we feel like prisoners of others' expectations. With the presence of those who truthfully appreciate, love and care for us, we can just be ourselves. This creates a triumphant sense of freedom from the worldly measures that others impose over us.

  • They let us feel loved and appreciated. Love and belongingness are essential human needs that have to be met before one can work on being the best version of himself. We need social ties who'd support us to reach our highest potentials. Furthermore, we need and want people with whom we can share our triumphs. We are innately social beings and we become fulfilled when we exercise that nature. Remember the saying: 'No man is an island.'

Social Health and Social Support

Social health includes a person's ability to form and maintain healthy interpersonal relationship with others within the society.

Related Post: 20 Effective Communication Techniques For Better Interpersonal & Interprofessional Relationships)

There are some among us who tend to isolate themselves away from people when they experience setbacks in life. Hopelessness, helplessness, fear of humiliation, denial, anger-- these are just some of the negative emotions we tend to develop during a stressful ordeal. Isolating ourselves away from people could further escalate these feelings because we don't have a buffer when we're alone.

A family member, friend, mentor, and/or spiritual adviser (social connections) can help us maintain a healthy social life as they give us encouragements and support. It's a wonderful feeling to have somebody console us during such difficult times. Let us not shut these people out of our lives especially when we need them most.

Spiritual Health and Social Support

Spiritual health may have varied concepts among people. In a qualitative study, 22 spiritual health experts were interviewed about spirituality, including its definition, components, and indicators.

Content analysis of the participants' answers revealed that spirituality has three dimensions-- religious which is related to human connection with God; individualistic, one's connection to himself; and material world-oriented, human connection to nature and those within the environment. The study also revealed that human connection with God has been identified as the most important definition of spiritual health.

When the future is unclear, a healthy spirituality can give us hope, sense of purpose, and resilience. Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices can help us build strong coping skills amidst stress.

Our social ties can help maintain our spiritual well-being as they:

  • Pray and meditate with us to strengthen our faith,

  • Engage with us through meaningful conversations

  • Reach out to us when we need help,

  • Do things with us that bring joy and laughter,

  • Remind us of our greatest achievements in life,

  • Read or share inspirational stories with us.

(Related Post: Good Help versus Bad Help: Understand When Helping Isn't Really Doing Its Job)

For more health and wellness ideas subscribe to Thousand Business-- Where Minds Meet Success, and get updated with our latest articles.

hypnosis 2.jpg