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How Do You Cope?

Emotion-focused coping is a type of stress management that attempts to reduce negative emotional responses associated with stress. Negative emotions such as embarrassment, fear, anxiety, depression, excitement, and frustration are reduced or removed by the individual by various methods of coping.

Emotion-focused techniques might be the only realistic option when the source of stress is outside the person’s control., for example, drug therapy can be seen as emotion focused coping as it focuses on the arousal caused by stress not the problem. Other emotion focused coping techniques include:

  • Distraction, e.g. keeping yourself busy to take your mind off the issue.
  • Emotional disclosure. This involves expressing strong emotions by talking or writing about negative events which precipitated those emotions (Pennebaker, 1995) This is an important part of psychotherapy.
  • Praying for guidance and strength.
  • Praying for guidance and strength.
  • Meditation, e.g. mindfulness
  • Eating more, e.g. comfort food.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Using drugs.

Emotion-focused coping does not provide a long-term solution and may have negative side effects as it delays the person dealing with the problem. However, they can be a good choice if the source of stress is outside the person’s control (e.g. a surgical procedure).Gender differences have also been reported: women tend to use more emotion-focused strategies than men (Billings & Moos, 1981).

Problem-focused coping targets the causes of stress in practical ways which tackles the problem or stressful situation that is causing stress, consequently directly reducing the stress.

Problem focused strategies aim to remove or reduce the cause of the stressor, including:

  • Problem-solving.
  • Time-management.
  • Obtaining instrumental social support.

In general problem-focused coping is best, as it removes the stressor, so deals with the root cause of the problem, providing a long-term solution. Problem-focused strategies are successful in dealing with stressors such as discrimination (Pascoe & Richman, 2009), HIV infections (Moskowitz, Hult, Bussolari, & Acree, 2009) and diabetes (Duangdao & Roesch, 2008). However, it is not always possible to use problem-focused strategies. For example, when someone dies, problem-focused strategies may not be helpful for the bereaved. Dealing with the feeling of loss requires emotion-focused coping. Problem focused approached will not work in any situation where it is beyond the individual’s control to remove the source of stress. They work best when the person can control the source of stress (e.g. exams, work-based stressors etc.).It is not a productive method for all individuals. For example, not all people are able to take control of a situation or perceived a situation as controllable.

Then explain whether these coping mechanisms were effective in reducing the level of stress you experienced. Why or why not?

They were effective because shifting how I experienced potential stressors in my live can reduce their negative impact. With emotion-focused coping, I do not need to wait for my live to change or work on changing the inevitable. I can simply find ways to accept what I face right now, and not let it bother me. As a result, I learned to meditate more often. The problem-focused coping was effective, I am practicing managing my time wisely, and reached out for social support from friends and family members.

Finally, propose two other coping mechanisms you might employ that also may be effective in reducing stress levels and explain why. Be specific.

Adaptive vs. Maladaptive Strategies

Coping strategies can also be positive (adaptive) or negative (maladaptive). Positive coping strategies successfully diminish the amount of stress being experienced and provide constructive feedback for the user. Examples of adaptive coping include seeking social support from others (social coping) and attempting to learn from the stressful experience (meaning-focused coping). Maintaining good physical and mental health, practicing relaxation techniques, and employing humor in difficult situations are other types of positive coping strategies. Proactive coping is a specific type of adaptive strategy that attempts to anticipate a problem before it begins and prepare a person to cope with the coming challenge.

Negative coping strategies might be successful at managing or abating stress, but the result is dysfunctional and non-productive. They provide a quick fix that interferes with the person’s ability to break apart the association between the stressor and the symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, while these strategies provide short-term relief, they serve to maintain disorder. Maladaptive strategies include dissociation, sensitization, numbing out, anxious avoidance of a problem, and escape. Specifically, there is and will continue to be an increase in the number of nontraditional students who attend institutions of higher education. In contrast to the traditional 18- to 22-year-old, full-time student, some of the trends include more first-generation students, females, part-time students, students attending 2-year institutions, and students with dependents (Choy, 2002; Kohler, Munz, & Trares, 2007). Approximately one third of undergraduate students are now working adults (Berker & Horn, 2003). Many of these adult students bring with them unique needs that should be addressed by academic institutions, both inside and outside of the class-room (Carney-Crompton & Tan, 2002; Kasworm & Pike, 1994; Knowles, 1988).An area of particular salience for adult students is the stress of balancing multiple demands and roles at work, at school, and in their personal life. In accordance with resource scarcity theory, going back to school creates another role domain that competes for limited resources: the student’s time, energy, and finances (Butler, 2007).

Culture and Coping Strategies

Culture and surroundings also affect what coping strategies are practically available and socially acceptable. Some cultures promote a head-on approach to stress and provide comforting environments for managing stressful situations, while others encourage independence and self-sufficiency when it comes to coping with stress. A person’s perception of stress and ability to cope with that stress are products of many different influences in life, specifically, The need for quality child care remains a paramount concern for American families as the rates of maternal and dual caregiver employment continue to surge (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003).Clearly, one of the most important avenues for bettering the status of professional child care lies in improving the training, skills and expertise of professional child care workers. High staff turnover is critical dilemma facing the childcare industry. High turnover results in less stability in child-caregiver relationships and in the hiring of less qualified personnel simply to fill staffing needs, both of which ultimately result in lower quality of care. It is estimated that one in three to one in five childcare teachers leave their centers each year (Child Care Bureau, 1996; Seiderman, 1978). Contributors to this dilemma include dissatisfaction with low wages, high child-to-staff ratios, poor perceived professional status, and long or unstable work hours. Prolonged exposure to these and other chronic, stable, and stressful work conditions appear to leave childcare professionals particularly vulnerable to a psychological phenomenon called ‘‘burnout’’ (Maslach & Pines, 1977)


Billings, A. G., & Moos, R. H. (1981). The role of coping responses and social resources in attenuating the stress of life events. Journal of behavioral Medicine, 4, 139-157.

Moskowitz, J. T., Hult, J. R., Bussolari, C., & Acree, M. (2009). What works in coping with HIV? A meta-analysis with implications for coping with serious illness. Psychological Bulletin, 135(1), 121.

Evans, G. D., Bryant, N. E., Owens, J. S., & Koukos, K. (2004). Ethnic differences in burnout, coping, and intervention acceptability among childcare professionals. Child & Youth Care Forum, 33(5), 349-371. doi:…

Kohler Giancola J, Grawitch MJ, Borchert D.2009 ).Dealing with the Stress of College: A Model for Adult Students. Adult Education Quarterly. 59(3):246-263. doi:10.1177/0741713609331479

Pennebaker, J. W. (1995). Emotion, disclosure, & health. American Psychological Association

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