2 The Concept of CopingCoping refers to “efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress”.General points for consideration:There are many different ways of coping.Individuals have unique styles of coping.Coping strategies vary in their effectiveness.
3 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value Giving up.People often develop learned helplessness if they frequently encounter aversive events they cannot control, and they give up.Sometimes, however, this tendency is transferred to situations in which the person is not really helpless.
4 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Giving up. (cont.)Cognitive interpretation of aversive events may determine whether we feel helpless or not.People with a “pessimistic explanatory style” view aversive events as “out of their control”, feel helpless, and give up.This coping strategy is called “behavioral disengagement” and is associated with increased distress.
5 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Striking out at others.Frustration caused by stressful events may elicit aggression, “behavior intended to hurt someone, either physically or verbally”.People often act out toward others who had nothing to do with their frustration.Using a substitute target in this manner was called “displacement” by Freud.
6 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Striking out at others. (cont.)Freud believed aggressive acts could release pent-up emotional tension and called the process catharsis.However, research finds that acting aggressively produces more, not less anger and aggression.
7 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Indulging yourself.When stressed by events that are going poorly, some people seek out alternative sources of satisfaction by indulging in:Excessive eating, drinking and smoking;gambling & drug use; andInternet addiction – spending excessive time online to avoid the real world.These behaviors are usually not healthy and create more problems in the long-run.
8 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Blaming yourself.People often become highly critical of themselves when stressed.Albert Ellis called this “catastrophic thinking” which involves:Attributing failures to personal shortcomings;Focusing on negative feedback; andBeing overly pessimistic about the future.This pattern perpetuates negative emotional reactions to stress.
9 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Using defensive coping.Defense mechanisms are “largely unconscious reactions that protect a person from unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and guilt”.Defense mechanisms shield us from emotional discomfort caused by stress.However, most involve a degree of self-deception, a distortion of reality.
10 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Using defensive coping. (cont.)Defense mechanisms are considered normal, and can operate at various levels of consciousness.Are they healthy?Generally, they are not, because:They are avoidance strategies;They often involve “wishful thinking”; andSome have been linked to poor health.
11 Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value (cont.) Are they healthy? (cont.)Sometimes, however, they are useful for severe stress because they buffer us from extremely negative emotions.(e.g., unrealistic optimism may benefit a terminally ill patient.)
12 The Nature of Constructive Coping Constructive coping - “refers to efforts to deal with stressful events that are judged to be relatively healthful”.Constructive coping involves:Confronting problems directly.Realistic appraisals of stress and coping resources.Learning to recognize and manage disruptive emotional reactions to stress.
13 The Nature of Constructive Coping (cont.) Constructive coping involves: (cont.)Learning to exert some control over potentially harmful or destructive habitual behaviors.There are three main categories of constructive coping strategies (see Figure 4.4):Appraisal-FocusedProblem-FocusedEmotion-Focused
14 Figure 4. 4. Overview of constructive coping tactics Figure Overview of constructive coping tactics. Coping tactics can be organized in several ways, but we will use the classification scheme shown here, which consists of three categories: appraisal-focused, problem-focused, and emotion-focused. The list of coping tactics in each category is not exhaustive We will discuss most, but not all, of the listed strategies in our coverage of constructive coping.Figure 4.4
15 Appraisal-Focused Coping In Ellis’ A-B-C model (see Figure 4.5) he explains how our appraisal (or beliefs about stressful events) is critical to the coping process.Negative appraisals (or beliefs) are often associated with catastrophic thinking, which exaggerates the magnitude of our problems, whereasPositive (realistic and/or optimistic) appraisals allow constructive coping.
16 Figure 4. 5. Albert Ellis’s A-B-C model of emotional reactions Figure Albert Ellis’s A-B-C model of emotional reactions. Most people are prone to attribute their negative emotional reactions, C, directly to stressful events (A). However, Ellis argues that emotional reactions are really caused by the way individuals think about these events (B).Figure 4.5
17 Appraisal-Focused Coping (cont.) The roots of catastrophic thinking.Unrealistic, negative appraisals stem from irrational assumptions we hold, such as:“I must have love and affection from certain people.”“I must perform well in all endeavors.”“Other people should always behave competently and be considerate of me.”“Events should always go the way I like.”
18 Appraisal-Focused Coping (cont.) Catastrophic thinking can be reduced by:Learning to detect it when it occurs.Learning to dispute irrational assumptions.Defusing stressful situations with humor.Reinterpreting stressful situations in a more positive light.
19 Problem-Focused Coping Problem-focused coping involves techniques aimed at solving the problems that are causing stress.Four techniques are especially helpful:Using “Systematic Problem Solving”.Seeking help.Effective time-management.Improving self-control.
20 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) “Systematic Problem Solving” is a step-by-step technique for tackling problems.Clarify the problem – often people do not know what, exactly, is causing stress.Generate alternative courses of action – use “brainstorming” to generate ideas.Evaluate your alternatives and select a course of action.Take action while maintaining flexibility.
21 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Seeking help.It is often helpful to seek aid from friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.Using time more effectively.A common source of stress is “time pressure” – a feeling of not having enough time to accomplish tasks.Often, this can be improved by using the time we have more effectively.
22 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Using time more effectively. (cont.)The causes of wasted time:Inability to set or stick to priorities.Inability to say “no” to others’ demands on our time.Inability to delegate responsibility.Inability to throw things away.Inability to accept anything less than perfection.
23 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Using time more effectively. (cont.)The problem of procrastination:About 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators (Ferrari, 2001).Many claim to benefit from this tactic (e.g., saying they “work well under pressure”).However, procrastinators also tend to experience more anxiety and health problems.
24 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Using time more effectively. (cont.)Time management techniques:Monitor your use of time – keep a record to see where it all goes.Clarify your goals – decide what you want to accomplish with your time.Plan your activities using a schedule – planning saves time in the long-run.
25 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Using time more effectively. (cont.)Protect your prime time – announce to others when you’re blocking off certain times to work so you won’t be interrupted.Increase your efficiency. Try these tips:Handle paper once.Tackle one task at a time.Group similar tasks together.Make use of your “downtime”.
26 Problem-Focused Coping (cont.) Improving self-control.“Behavior Modification”, an application of operant conditioning, is a technique designed to increase wanted behaviors, and decrease unwanted behaviors.See the Application at the end of this chapter for more details.
27 Emotion-Focused Coping Enhancing emotional intelligence.Emotional intelligence – “consists of the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion”.
28 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Emotional intelligence has four components:Accurately perceiving emotions in yourself and others.Knowing how your emotions shape your thinking.An understanding of complex, or contradictory emotions.Regulation of emotions, especially negative ones.
29 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Releasing pent-up emotions.Efforts to actively suppress emotions, especially anger, tend to increase stress and physiological arousal.In contrast, “emotional disclosure” is associated with better mood, more positive self-perceptions, and better health.
30 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Managing hostility and forgiving others.When we feel “wronged”, our natural tendency is to seek revenge or hold a grudge.Forgiving others goes counter to these instincts, but is associated with better adjustment and well-being.
31 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Meditating.Meditation – is “a family of mental exercises in which a conscious attempt is made to focus attention in a nonanalytical way”.Benefits includeDecreases in heart rate, respiration rate, oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide elimination (see Figure 4.13), that indicate a state of deep relaxation.
33 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Benefits include (cont.)Increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which indicates a focusing of attention.Lower levels of stress hormones.Lower anxiety.Better mood.A sense of control.
34 Emotion-Focused Coping (cont.) Using relaxation procedures.One well-known technique is Benson’s “relaxation response”. Four factors are critical:A quiet environment.A mental device (or focal point).A passive attitude.A comfortable position.
35 Application: Achieving Self-Control Self-modification is a process (see Figure 4.15) designed to change behavior.It involves the following five steps:Specifying your target behavior.– Know what it is that you want to change.Gathering baseline data.Know where you are now so that you can track progress.
36 Figure 4. 15. Steps in a self-modification program Figure Steps in a self-modification program. This flow chart provides an overview of the steps necessary to execute a self-modification program.Figure 4.15
37 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Step 2 (cont.)Observe your behavior for a period of time and monitor three things:The initial response level of your target behavior (e.g., how many calories you consume).Monitor antecedents – “events that precede the target response”.Monitor consequences of the target behavior.
38 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Designing your program.Your goal should be to either increase or decrease a target response.To increase a target response:Select a reinforcer.Arrange the contingencies – describe the exact behavior that must occur in order to get the reinforcer.
39 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Step 3 (cont.)Contingences could include the use of:Token economies – give yourself symbolic reinforcers that are then exchanged for real reinforcers (see Figure 4.18).Shaping – reinforce “closer and closer approximations of the desired response”.
40 Figure 4. 18. Example of a token economy to reinforce exercise Figure Example of a token economy to reinforce exercise. This token economy was set up to strengthen three types of exercise behavior. The person can exchange tokens for four different types of reinforcers.Figure 4.18
41 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Decreasing response strength.Using reinforcement – reward yourself for NOT emitting a behavior, or emitting it less often (e.g., eating less).Controlling antecedents – avoid exposure to events that trigger the behavior.Punishment – if you choose this, don’t use punishment alone (combine with reinforcement) and use a mild punishment.
42 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Executing and evaluating your program.Implement your plan and make sure it is working.You can avoid “cheating” by using a behavioral contract – a “written agreement outlining a promise to adhere to the contingencies of a behavior modification program”.
43 Application: Achieving Self-Control (cont.) Ending your Program.Make sure to spell out the conditions under which you will end the program.It is also helpful to set terminal goals (e.g., reaching a certain weight).
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