Social Focus on Coping with Stress
Reflecting on Social Work’s Focus Re: Stress
Why do you think we easily get diverted from thinking about societal conditions that create stress and come, instead, to focus on helping individuals cope with stress? How does such an approach fir with social work’s commitment to social justice?
Social Focus on Coping with Stress
Stress refers to situations in which factors in the external environment or internal factors exert pressure on adaptive resources. Stress occurs at various levels, including social, psychological and biological levels. Each of these levels of stress exert pressure on the respective adaptive resources. Psychological stress affects individuals’ ability to respond to psychological events, while social stress influences individuals’ ability to adapt to events occurring within their social sphere. Usually, stress is brought about by different factors. Hutchison (2014) indicates that there are three categories of stress, which are harm, threats and challenges. Typically, the response to stress would be to respond to the changes in the environment that are responsible for bringing about the stress. Hutchison (2014) points out that as the attention shifts towards the injurious nature of stress on the immune system, the focus of stress alleviation tends to shift from the environmental factors causing stress, towards coping mechanisms. This essay argues that the reason for this shift is the harmful nature of stress on individuals, as well as the ease of changing individual behavior is the core cause of this shift in attention.
Helping Individuals Cope with Stress
Stress tends to have a harmful nature on individuals. When an individual is faced with a stressful event, even if this stress is primarily psychological, the effect6s tend to spillover to the individual’s physiology. As individuals become increasingly stressed, they neglect their bodies and this leads to biological stress. For example, Hutchison (2014) provides the example of Dan, indicating that as Dan became increasingly psychologically stressed, he began to neglect his sleep. This in effect led to biological stress which led to negative health outcomes. Usually, the nature of stress is that stress within one paradigm leads to stress across all levels. When individuals are psychologically stressed, they may manifest poor feeding habits or poor social habits, leading to biological and social stress respectively. Conversely, when an individual does not eat well, this may lead to poor self-image and this would result in psychological stress then social stress. Clearly, stress has a complex effect on individuals, making it necessary to address stress at the individual level.
Given the multi-faceted nature of stress on individuals, it may be easier to address stress by dealing with individual behavior rather than by changing environmental factors. For starters, it may not be easy to change environmental factors. Hutchison indicates that one of the ways of measuring stress is through daily hassles, while another is major/rare life events. In either of these instances, it may not be possible or as straightforward to change or alleviate the stressor. Consequently, an easier and more effective way of addressing such stress is by enhancing the individual’s ability to cope. This aligns to a realistic orientation of the world, which acknowledges the diverse outcomes that are possible within a given scenario (Davis & Asliturk, 2011). Such an outlook accommodates a wide range of possible outcomes, and allows individuals to cope better when a negative outcome materializes.
Stress usually has a harmful nature on individuals, leading
to a variety of negative outcomes. Usually, stress at one level leads to stress
across all levels, that is, psychological, biological and social. Given the
multifaceted nature of stress outcomes, it may not always be easy to address
stressors. In this regard, an easier approach is to alter individual behaviors
and expectation, and prepare individuals to cope with stress. These two factors
are the most probable reason for the shift in focus towards helping individuals
cope with stress.
Davis, C. G., & Asliturk, E. (2011). Toward a positive psychology of coping with anticipated events. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 52(2), 101.
Hutchison, E. D. (2010). Dimensions of human behavior: Person and environment. Sage Publications.