The social reality consists of two distinct spheres: the public and the private arenas. In the public arena, we have to live according to explicit rules governed by law and stature. However, the public arena is also governed by unspoken rules like in the private arena.
Basically we do not have a choice in following all these explicit and unspoken rules if we want to be accepted by society around us. This fact will most certainly lead to social stress in many people.
How can these rules cause social stress? All these rules may clash with our private rules and our needs. One way or another we belong to a number of different overlapping groups. The rules of these different groups may clash with one another. But we still feel obliged to follow the rules of all these groups. Because these rules are unspoken, it may be difficult to determine exactly what they are. We may find ourselves behaving in a particular way without being sure why. We may be aware of feeling uneasy or distressed about our actions without being able to explain it. In both cases, this may be caused by the operation of unspoken rules which will lead to social stress.
What kind of rules is quite explicit in society? Here are a few examples: fat people are lesser beings than thin people, old people are not really important, and if you are poor, it is your own fault. Most adults react in the same ways to these rules which will definitely cause of a lot of social stress. Common reactions are excitement, fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. The behavior of an adult who is socially stressed may change, but each adult reacts in a different way. Some adults withdraw from others, some lash out at others, and some actively seek the comfort of others.
What are the best ways to deal with social stress? Although adults cope with social stress in different ways, there are general patterns in their coping behaviors. There are two major ways to cope with social stress. One way is problem solving. This involves trying to deal with the problem by changing the situation or getting rid of the problem. Another way of handling social stress is managing emotions.
Adults use both methods depending on what the actual causes are of social stress and when it started. Studies show that people, who deal with their social stress problems, see the positive side of difficult situations, and take part in activities they enjoy are more likely to be well-adjusted. Acting to solve social stress problems often requires planning. Sometimes it requires learning new skills. For example, coping with feeling left out might require learning social skills. An example of seeing the positive side would be focusing on your team's good performance even though they lost the game.
Managing emotions can be very helpful when an adult is trying to cope with an uncontrollable problem which causes social stress. It can also be helpful in the early stages of coping with a social stress problem. Blowing off steam, avoidance, and distraction can be important ways to cope more directly with social stress. Studies show that the most common way adults cope with social stress is doing something enjoyable. This method provides time out from social stress. It often recharges batteries so that the person can go back to deal with other social stresses.