How Effective Are Your Coping Strategies?

What do taking a walk, soaking in a bubble bath, watching TV, playing basketball, drinking, and sleeping have in common? They are all coping strategies, which are behavioral and psychological efforts to try to master, tolerate or minimize stressful events and unpleasant emotions. We learned them from watching our parents, friends, and role models deal with life’s difficulties. Some strategies are more effective than others, and some bring instant relief, but long-term negative effects.
Coping takes many different forms. There are direct and indirect approaches to handling stress. Direct coping strategies are efforts to do something to alleviate the stressful situation, while indirect coping strategies involve efforts to change the way we think about or emotionally and physically respond to the stress. In addition, coping strategies can be either active or inactive. Active coping strategies are used to change and improve the stressful situation or how we respond to it, whereas inactive coping strategies (e.g., withdrawing and drinking) are used to keep us from having to deal directly with the situation.
Research has shown that Asians tend to use more inactive than active coping strategies; however, active strategies work well too. Thus, below are some active coping strategies you could use to help you deal with stressful situations and unpleasant emotions.

Direct Active Strategies

Change the source of your stress. You can decrease your stress by changing the nature of the situation. First, identify the changeable aspects of the situation. Then, use a problem-solving approach to develop and implement a plan for change.
Confront the source of your stress. If you are having problems with a particular person, talk to that person directly. By sharing your frustration and attempting to figure out a solution, you may be able to resolve your problems, and thus decrease your stress.
Change your physical response to the situation. Stress can cause physical strain. Some physical signs of stress include headaches, racing heart, muscle tension in the neck or shoulders, and upset stomach. Deep-breathing and muscle relaxation techniques can help. Additionally, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating healthy will also help.

If you would like to read this article in its entirety, be sure to check out the June issue.