Stress Vulnerability Model of Coping


I thought this month I'd blog about the Stress/Vulnerability Model of 

Often our busy lives are filled with juggling many balls in the air at 
the same time and making multiple decisions (sometimes simulatenously!). 
Many of us would probably consider ourselves able to cope with a fair 
bit of stress before we start to notice that we are maybe not coping as 
well as we thought we were (e.g. we may start to feel run down, start to 
get symptoms of the flu or maybe become a bit more irritable with our 
loved ones that we would normally be). We may initially notice that we 
are making little mistakes (when we otherwise wouldn't) or that 
increasingly we start to feel overwhemled or that we are not coping.

Everyone has a stress threshold. Sometimes it is OK for some people to 
go above their stress threshold and they don't feel great, but they 
otherwise cope (especially after some sleep, good food and general self 
care!). Sometimes people will go above their stress threshold and below 
it (almost like a wave with peaks and troughs). This is to be expected 
with the highs and lows of life. However, if they continue to operate 
above their stress threshold, with no respite and sustained or 
increasing levels of stress, then their functioning and overall mental 
health will start to decline.

It is worth saying that when some people have risk factors for 
vulnerability to stress or mental illness (such as family history, poor 
coping or social skills/networks, communication problems, substance use 
issues, major life stressors, work/study problems, etc), then they need 
to be even more mindful of the impact of stress on their overall health 
and wellbeing.

The stress/vulnerability model of coping invites us to get to know our 
stress threshold and to track or be mindful of when we have been 
operating above our threshold in a sustained or unhealthy way. When this 
occurs, and before our mental health starts to be impacted, it is worth 
upping our protective factors (especially if we are susceptible to the 
above mentioned risk factors). Protective factors include:

- Good physical health or exercise
- Good communication skills and reaching out to people in the social or 
support network
- Good diet/nutrition
- Developing good coping or distress tolerance skills
- For some medication or talking therapy
- Adequate sleep and relaxation exercises

So if you are experiencing high levels of stress at the moment, maybe 
slow down for a moment and reflect on how sustainable this is (or 
whether it would be a better idea to maybe practice some self care and 
enhance the protective factors for your mental health and wellbeing).

If you want to explore specifically how the stress vulnerability model 
of coping may apply to your life, or even if you just want to talk 
through some of the issues that you have been stressed about lately, 
please email me at and we can arrange a 
time for you to come and speak with me in person.

Take care,
Sarah Joy

Speak Your Mind