Which Coping Style is Yours?


Nearly 70% of Americans experience physical and mental symptoms of stress, but only 37% think they are doing very well at managing it, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association. 

Coping styles are the ways we deal with stress. Most of us have a variety of methods that we use depending on our personality and the situation. 

Psychologists categorize them as instrumental or emotional. Coping styles can also be divided into active or avoidant. As you might guess, some styles are usually more constructive than others. 

If you’re trying to manage stress more effectively, you’ll be happy to know that it’s a skill you can practice. Build your capacity to deal with challenges by recognizing and changing your coping style. 

Instrumental Coping 

Instrumental or problem-focused methods stress developing solutions. Many experts believe that it’s advantageous to make this your primary approach. That’s especially true when you’re dealing with circumstances that you can control. 

Practice these strategies to develop greater skill in instrumental coping: 

1. Spot patterns. Look for habits when you analyze your behavior. When you understand your reactions, you can decide if they’re helping you or holding you back. 

2. Apply your values. Consider your options and how they align with your faith or other core beliefs. To be successful, it’s important to have strategies that enable you to be authentic. 

3. Take action. How can you implement your plans? Break big projects down into smaller tasks. Take a first step that will help you build motivation and momentum. 

4. Learn from experience. Any active method of coping can help you turn setbacks into valuable life lessons. Figure out how you may be contributing to your own difficulties. Forgive yourself and others for past disappointments and move forward. 

Emotional Coping 

Emotion-focused methods emphasize processing your feelings about what’s going on. This is a wise choice when you need to accept reality, even if you find it unpleasant. You can’t change the weather, but you can be happy when it rains on your wedding day. 

These strategies will help you cope emotionally:

1. Breathe deeply. Focus on your breath to release tension. Relaxing will help you to think more clearly and avoid impulsive actions that you may regret later. 

2. Talk it over. Social support makes it easier to work through uncomfortable feelings. You gain insights from putting your story into words and listening to other perspectives. 

3. Exercise regularly. Taking care of your body helps to fight anxiety and depression. Find a variety of physical activities that you enjoy so you’ll stick with your workout program. 

4. Start a journal. If you struggle to connect with your emotions, writing about them can help. You can keep your thoughts to yourself or share them with a therapist. 

Avoidance Coping 

Avoidance may provide temporary relief, but it backfires if you rely on it excessively. Trying to run away from your troubles increases stress and undermines your self-confidence. 

These strategies will help you face your situation and deal with it: 

1. Challenge your assumptions. Avoidance is often a sign that you doubt your own abilities. Try to reframe the way you see daily events so you’ll feel more hopeful. Think about how you can make any experience more meaningful. 

2. Seek healthy alternatives. Do you try to numb yourself with distractions like alcohol or shopping? Find outlets that are more constructive. In addition to working out, you could play the piano or pet your dog when you feel tense. 

3. Keep practicing. Changing your coping style takes time. Give yourself credit for each victory and be patient if you relapse. 

4. Consider counseling. If you feel like you need more resources, contact the psychological association in your state or ask friends and family for referrals. 

Talking with a professional can help you to reach your goals. 

Changing your coping style can make you more resilient and successful. Face your troubles head on and manage your emotions. You’ll experience less stress and feel more positive about yourself. 

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