What are healthy coping strategies?
What are healthy coping strategies?
NiceDay Blog: What are healthy coping strategies?

(Almost) everyone will experience episodes of stress at a certain point in their life. However, some people seem to be capable of coping with huge amounts of pressure and stress, while others reach their breaking point over the smallest thing. What is the difference between these people? And maybe more important: What can we learn from them? Research by Meng & D’Arcy (2015) has shown that certain coping strategies can support people in achieving a healthy psychological well-being (PWB). What are healthy coping strategies? I will explain further in this blog.

What is coping?

Coping refers to the thoughts and actions we use to deal with threatening or stressful situations. This is a pretty complex process because there are many variables that influence it. A situation may be stressful for you, but not for your neighbor, because of a different way of evaluating the situation and the chosen copings strategy of the situation.

Positive coping

Research has shown that there are different coping strategies that have beneficial outcomes for a wide variety of emotional problems like anger, (di)stress, anxiety or depressive symptoms. These coping mechanisms are called, positive coping strategies(Carver, Scheier & Weintraub,1989). These strategies for example may include: physical exercise, seeking social support, diversion or an active approach for solving a problem. Each of these examples helps to lower the experienced stress or negative feelings. However, not everyone is applying these strategies correctly or applying them at all.

Negative coping

This form of coping, often called maladaptive coping does more harm than good and can make life more stressful, especially in the long run. For example, let’s say someone starts drinking to lower his or her anxiety. In the short run, this may alleviate the anxiety symptoms. However, the person may become dependent on alcohol in the long run to alleviate his or her anxiety. Other examples are: denying, overindulging or avoidance.

The cycle

Research shows that stress is related to a lower level of PWB. However, (di)stress is also related to higher levels of negative coping. This in turn, is also related to lower levels of PWB (Meng et al.,2015). By now, I hope you can spot the negative cycle that’s causing the problem. (Di)stress and negative coping reinforce each other while both have a negative influence on your psychological well-being.

How can you break this cycle?

Basically, there are two general ways of coping with a (di)stressful situation. You can either apply problem-focused or emotion-focused strategies. The focus of a problem-focused strategy is to analyze your problem and think of a way out.

For example, suppose you are late for an important deadline at work or school. A problem focused strategy would be to make a schedule, put in extra effort and ask a colleague or peer for help. Solving the issue then reduces the experienced stress.

Emotion-focused strategies

However, sometimes a problem is beyond solving. This is where Emotion-focused strategies comes in handy. Emotion-focused strategies don’t look at the problem itself, but at a way of dealing with the accompanying negative emotions and (di)stress. Common examples are listening to music, meditation, physical exercise, going out with a friend or writing in a journal or diary.

Physical and mental processes are interconnected on a strong level. Try to start with the base and think for yourself if your body is in good shape. For example, did I get enough sleep? And how am I eating and drinking lately? Mental processes however, are just as important. Try to contemplate on how you handle situations and what the outcome of your actions (coping strategy) was. Try to think of ways that might be more appropriate for the situation if you weren’t satisfied with the previous outcome. You can use the NiceDay app for this!

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Tim Buijs

Here to help you every step off the way. Passionate about sports, traveling and movies.

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