What is Coping?
According to the American Psychological Association, coping is “the use of cognitive and behavioral strategies to manage the demands of a situation when these are appraised as taxing or exceeding one’s resources or to reduce negative emotions and conflict caused by stress.” In other words, coping is the thoughts and actions we use to deal with difficult situations.
Everyone responds to difficult situations differently and what might be considered a challenge or stressful situation to one person, might be a walk in the park for another. Since everyone is triggered differently by stress, it is important to find what coping strategies will work best for the individual. As you will find, there are numerous methods, and some may work better for some than others. It is also important to note that coping doesn’t exclusively emerge when things happen to us in an external sense, but it can also accrue from things that happen within us – internally. Losing your job or a significant other ending your relationship would be examples of external demands. They are external events that happened to you, and you find ways to cope. Internal demands can be things like anxiety or depression; there is no specific thing that has happened to you, however, you have to address the challenges that the depression or anxiety present.
“Any strategy for managing a stressful situation in which a person does not address the problem directly but instead disengages from the situation and averts attention from it. In other words, the individual turns away from the processing of threatening information.”
There are many escapist practices that we use to cope with the realities of our situation, some may be more effective than others, depending on the nature of the situation. Self-distractive and often destructive behaviors, also known as maladaptive coping, may be applied to stressful events or internal conflict, often unconsciously. Avoidance is a common maladaptive practice we engage in to change our behavior in order to prevent ourselves from thinking or feeling things that make us uncomfortable. The common term for this is avoidance coping, or escape coping. These terms encompass a wide range of toxic behaviors that we participate in to escape difficulties. Temporarily, these avoidance behaviors may bring us a sense of ease, however, they are often counterproductive and can actually exacerbate the feelings we were trying to escape. It is important to note that not all escapist behaviors are toxic. Escaping from time to time should be an intentional decision to get away from the daily grind in order to refresh our minds so that we can better live life. Proper escapism prevents burnout and provides a new perspective on an existing problem.
“Any strategy for managing a stressful event or situation in which a person actively focuses on the problematic event or situation. Approach strategies may be cognitive in nature or behavioral. Although generally seen as more adaptive than avoidance coping, approach strategies do have certain potential costs as well: The orientation toward threatening material can lead to increased distress and, when there is no possibility for changing the situation or for assimilating emotionally to it, nonproductive worry.”
Approach coping, or active coping, is a stress-management strategy that involves an awareness of the stressor, followed by attempts to reduce the negative outcome. It is a conscious decision to actively handle a given situation. There are two distinguishable subcategories of active coping: problem-focused (problem-solving) coping aims to focus on ways to actively tackle the issue in order to reduce any stress around a given situation, while emotion-focused coping focuses on nurturing emotional health during the difficult period. When these methods are used in a healthy manner, they can be quite effective.