Stress and anxiety are a part of our everyday lives. While in most situations we can deal with stress, there are times when we let stress take over and interfere with our day to day functioning. The first step to de-stressing therefore is recognizing that you have a problem. Once you have accepted that, you can find ways to deal with it effectively. Different people deal with stress in different ways, but psychologists have classified the coping methods into two main categories – problem focused coping and emotion focused coping. Let’s take a closer look at both these coping strategies.
Problem Focused Coping
What is problem focused coping? It is a coping mechanism that helps you deal with stress by identifying the fundamental cause of the stress in an objective manner, without letting your emotion get in the way. Problem focused coping mechanism usually involves problem solving, time management and strategy development. An upcoming exam may be a source of stress for someone and it can be dealt in one of two ways: preparing a study schedule in advance or complaining to everyone about the test. Preparing a schedule is a problem focused coping mechanism that is effective in dealing with this particular type of stress while ranting about it is an emotion-focused coping mechanism that will not address the stress effectively.
Another example is stress caused by an upcoming dental appointment. In this situation, it is not possible to develop problem focused coping strategies, since the procedure is outside the scope of control of the individual. In such situations, emotion-focused coping such as trying to think positively or avoiding thinking about the unpleasant feelings associated with the procedure are better coping options.
Emotion Focused Coping
Emotion focused coping helps you deal with stress by avoiding negative emotional responses associated with stress such as anxiety, depression, and frustration. Emotion focusing coping mechanism works best when the stressful situation is outside a person’s control. It is extremely useful in dealing with situations that cannot be changed and when the person needs to accept reality, such as news of a terminal illness or death in the family.
Emotion focused coping can be both positive and negative. For example, praying, doing mindfulness meditation, listen to music, taking a hot bath are positive coping methods that may not solve the problem but help us feel better. Negative coping strategies include distancing oneself from reality, using drugs, and eating comfort food and may provide relief in the short term but will create additional problems in the long run.
In some situations, both problem focused coping and emotion focused coping is required. For example, a couple who are divorcing will go through a dark period of self doubt and loss of self esteem. Old fears may resurface. In such situations, changing the living environment, removing things that reminds one of the other partner, getting a job, going back to school, or learning a new skill can help take the mind off the problem while seeking help from friends and family, working towards forgiveness, and doing meditation are emotional ways in which you can cope with the stressful situation.
Effective Coping Skills for Dealing with Stress
As I mentioned earlier, there is no one way of dealing with stress effectively. Every person deals with the same stressful situation in different ways to achieve different results. But there are some coping skills that can be employed successfully no matter what the stressor.
1. Being Positive
Think of every situation in life as a learning experience and be positive irrespective of what happens. For example, if you failed to perform well in an exam, don’t be intimidated by it when you face it again. Rather, be positive and find better ways to prepare for the exam. The next time around you will ace it. Negative emotions will only prevent you from dealing with situations effectively.
2. Don’t Let Stressful Events Get the Better of You
This is easier said than done, but once you realize that you’re dealing with a stressful situation, quickly find a remedy. If you have to deal with several stressful situations at one time, just step back for a minute, take deep breaths and motivate yourself to deal with one issue at a time. Take control of the situation and you’ve already solved half the problem.
3. Communicate with Others
Bottling up your emotions will only increase stress levels and lead to a big outburst. Always maintain good communication channels with the people around you. Talk or confide in someone about your stressful situation and discuss ways in which you can handle it. This will give you the comfort and strength needed to deal with difficult situations.
4. Be Accepting
Accept the fact that no one in the world is perfect. Mistakes will always be made and it is impossible to control everything. Once you are accepting of yourself and others around you, you’ll find that a lot of self-made stress is relieved.
5. Deal with Mistakes
Mistakes are simply the steeping stones to a better future. Don’t get disappointed with yourself or put yourself down when you make mistakes. Rather, learn from your mistakes so that your future decision making will be better.
6. Deal With Success
Success can also be a huge stressor as one is always expected to perform at exceptional levels to maintain that success. Learn from your success and build on your competence to avoid unwanted pressures.
7. Be Disciplined
Follow a good discipline in whatever you do. When you are consistent in your efforts you will be able to handle any situation with confidence.
You can find coping skills worksheets like this one on the web that you can print and use to deal with stress.
Whatever your situation in life is, learn to be flexible so that you can adapt one or more coping mechanisms to deal effectively with stress. That is ultimately the key to successful coping.