Understanding What Is Psychosocial Stress & How To Manage It

Stress comes in different forms and types. What’s stressful to you might not be stressful to someone else. This is why understanding psychosocial stress is important. 

what is psychosocial stress

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of highly stressful situations where your thoughts are consumed by the vicious cycle of worry, doubt, and frustration? Maybe you are juggling your work responsibilities and personal relationships or just trying to stay afloat as an adult – and yet, stress is a constant tag along. 

What if we told you that this persistent stress caused by a combination of stressful social situations has its own name in science – psychosocial stress?

Psychosocial stress is caused by life situations. The situations can be as simple as being stuck in traffic to as complex and difficult as losing a loved one

Wondering how psychosocial stress affects your mind and body? And how to truly deal with it! We have got you covered. In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into what is psychosocial stress and how it affects your daily life. We will also look into the best psychosocial stress coping strategies to help you learn how to manage it. Let’s dive in. 

What Is Psychosocial Stress?

Psychosocial stress affects all of us and takes an immense toll on our physical and mental well-being. It is generally induced by the constant evaluation in our brain about what’s at stake in the present moment and how it can affect our lives. 

Sounds confusing? Let’s simplify it with an example. 

Any life situation that occurs in your regular life can be a potential trigger for you and can activate a stress response. Now, different triggers might initiate different types of stress responses, like physical, psychological, or psychosocial stress. 

For instance, if you procrastinated on your work the whole weekend and are now standing in the board room without a presentation, you might feel any of these three types of stress (individually or simultaneously). Physical stress might increase your heart rate, and you might have a stomach ache due to nervousness. The psychological stress would suggest that you are worried about the impact of this mistake on your potential promotion. Finally, the psychosocial stress would be driven by the fear of being ostracized or embarrassed about underperforming.

Therefore, psychosocial stressors are driven by a threat to a person’s 

  • self-esteem,
  • self-respect,
  • acceptance in a group,
  • social status. 

Psychosocial stressors can arise any time when you feel that you’re in a social situation where you don’t have the required resources. These threats can lead to an extreme form of stress response. 

What Is A Psyschosocial Stressor?

psychosocial stress coping strategies

Psychosocial stress is caused by psychosocial stressors. These are life situations or events that combine psychological and social challenges, eventually leading to a heightened stress response. 

Psychosocial stressors are unique in two ways. Firstly, they emerge from a combination of inner cognitive and mental processes and outer circumstances. Psychosocial stressors can arise due to:

While people might have varied tolerance levels for these triggers, they can generally lead to extreme impacts on your physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Another thing that sets psychosocial stressors apart from other forms of triggers is that they don’t necessarily have to be negative in nature. Even positive situations like getting the job of your dreams can be one of the causes of psychosocial stress as it might leave you feeling worried about your capabilities to excel at the new job.

What Are The Causes Of Psychosocial Stress?

Psychosocial stress is caused by a variety of life situations and behaviors. These can be clubbed into two broad categories — intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

1. Intrinsic Factors

One of the primary causes of psychosocial stress is intrinsic thoughts and beliefs. These are standards that you evaluate yourself on. When you feel you aren’t good enough on these set standards, it leads to significant stress and anxiety.

Here are some examples of intrinsic causes of psychosocial stress:

  • negative self-talk,
  • perfectionist tendencies,
  • unrealistic expectations,
  • catastrophizing or assuming the worst possible outcomes, etc.

2. Extrinsic Factors

Another major cause of psychosocial stress is external factors that make you feel more vulnerable and reduce your resistance toward stress.

These include:

  • demanding job,
  • high workload,
  • conflicts in relationships,
  • lack of proper social interaction,
  • lack of work-life balance, etc.

What Does Psychosocial Stress Look Like?

what causes psychosocial stress

Psychosocial stressors lead to an extreme stress response during which the body releases hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine. This leads to what we call the flight and fight response. 

While the changes brought forward by this response might be beneficial in the short term, they are extremely harmful and debilitating for a long time. For instance, while increased cortisol might mean more energy for your body, it’ll also decrease your immune response and other functions in the long run. Similarly, even epinephrine might help generate more power but will lead to negative physical and psychological responses. 

A psychosocial stress response might be difficult to spot. Here are the most common symptoms of psychosocial stress to help you get started:

  • sweating,
  • increased blood pressure,
  • racing heart,
  • dizziness,
  • nausea,
  • digestive issues,
  • irritability and other strong emotional reactions,
  • drug and alcohol abuse,

Apart from these, psychosocial stress has also been associated with signs of anxiety and depression (Gotlib & Joormann, 2010; Hammen, 2016). 

How To Cope With Psychosocial Stress?

Now that you have a clear understanding of what psychosocial stress and stressors are, let’s look at how you can cope with it. We have compiled the most effective psychosocial stress coping strategies for you. Let’s dive in.

1. Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.

Stress is a regular occurrence in our lives, and how you deal with it determines how it affects your mind and body. In fact, it’s actually a proven fact by recent research published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

Simply put, two people can enter the same stressful situation, encounter the same trigger, and have entirely different responses. While you might not be able to control all psychosocial factors (since they also involve external factors), you can undoubtedly try working on your reaction. 

Therefore, the next time you encounter a negative thought or situation, try reframing it to a positive one. Do not give a negative belief the power to determine how you feel. This can be one of your best psychosocial stress coping strategies.

2. Develop the skill of resolving conflicts.

Conflicts are a regular part of human relationships (personal or professional). And since long-term conflicts are one of the most potent forms of psychosocial stressors, developing skills to mitigate disagreements is one of the best psychosocial stress coping strategies. 

When you learn to develop conflict resolution skills, you set half of the equation of all your relationships right. This way, you can bring tangible change in your situation, diffuse the negativity surrounding you, and make your external environment much healthier. All this will lead to reduced stress and worry. 

3. Develop routines that work in your favor.

Life is constantly changing. Yet, a considerable part of that life is under your control. Therefore, developing a solid routine for your life might be a great psychosocial stress coping strategy. It’s actually a pretty healthy way of reducing the impact of negative circumstances and stressors on your life. 

For instance, sticking to a healthy routine for eating and sleeping can come in extremely handy. Knowing that you’ll have dinner at eight, even though your day has been haywire, can be an unusually great relief (try it out). 

Additionally, when a part of your day is decided in a set routine, it reduces last-minute hassles, which promote stress and anxiety. 

4. Organize your psychosocial stressors. 

Understanding, analyzing, and organizing your psychosocial stressors is one of the best psychosocial stress coping strategies. You know what pushes your buttons and gets you riled up. It could be a heavy workload, differences with your spouse, or a lack of social interactions.

Once you’ve identified and organized your triggers, it’s time to confront them. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind rule might work temporarily. But if you want to make genuine progress, it’s important that you tackle your stressors head-on.

5. Get professional help.

Learning how to manage psychosocial stress is complex. Therefore, if you are having a hard time coping with the effects of stress on your life, it’s imperative that you seek proper professional help. A licensed mental healthcare professional can guide you toward understanding the causes of your psychosocial stress and derive healthy coping mechanisms as well. 

Conclusion:

Psychosocial stress is caused by debilitating life situations that leave you feeling vulnerable and lead to extreme stress responses. It can be caused by a variety of external and internal factors, including heavy workload, relationship issues, loneliness, and much more. 

Learning how to cope with psychosocial stress is important. Positive reframing, conflict resolution skills, and professional help are some of the best psychosocial stress coping strategies. 

Wondering how other forms of stress affect your mind and body? Here’s a complete breakdown of how psychological stress affects you. 

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