2The Concept of CopingCoping refers to “efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress”.General points for consideration:People cope with stress in many ways.It is most adaptive to use a variety of coping strategies.Coping strategies vary in their adaptive value.
3Common Coping Patterns Giving upPeople may develop learned helplessness – “passive behavior produced by exposure to unavoidable aversive events”.Sometimes, could then be transferred to situations in which the person is not really helpless.This then creates a passive reaction to stressful events, rather than active problem-solving.
4Common Coping Patterns, continued Giving up, continuedCognitive 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.
5Common Coping Patterns, continued Acting aggressivelyFrustration 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.
6Common Coping Patterns, continued Striking out at others, continuedFreud 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.
7Common Coping Patterns, continued Indulging yourselfWhen stressed by events that are going poorly, some people seek out alternative sources of satisfaction:Excessive eating, drinking, and smoking;gambling & drug use; andInternet addiction – “spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and inability to control online use” (see Figure 4.4).
9Common Coping Patterns, continued Blaming yourselfPeople often become highly critical of themselves when stressed.Albert Ellis called this catastrophic thinking, which involvesAttributing failures to personal shortcomings;Focusing on negative feedback; andBeing overly pessimistic about the future.This pattern perpetuates negative emotional reactions to stress.
10Common Coping Patterns, continued Using defensive copingDefense 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.
11Common Coping Patterns, continued Defense mechanisms, continuedDefense mechanisms are considered normal, and can operate at various levels of consciousness.Can they ever be healthy?Generally, they are not, becauseThey are avoidance strategies;They often involve “wishful thinking”; andSome have been linked to poor health.
12Common Coping Patterns, continued Are they healthy?, continuedSometimes, 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.)
13Constructive Coping, continued Constructive coping - “refers to efforts to deal with stressful events that are judged to be relatively healthful”.Constructive coping involvesConfronting problems directly.Effort.Realistic appraisals of stress and coping resources.Learning to recognize and manage disruptive emotional reactions to stress.
14Constructive Coping, continued Constructive coping involves, continuedLearning to exert some control over potentially harmful or destructive habitual behaviors.There are three main categories of constructive coping strategies (see Figure 4.6):Appraisal-focusedProblem-focusedEmotion-focused
15INSERT FIG 4.6Figure 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 strategies. 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.
16Appraisal-Focused Coping, continued In Ellis’s A-B-C model (see Figure 4.7), 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.Positive (realistic and/or optimistic) appraisals allow constructive coping.
17Figure 4. 7. 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).
18Appraisal-Focused Coping, continued The roots of catastrophic thinkingUnrealistic, negative appraisals stem from irrational assumptions we hold:“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.”
19Appraisal-Focused Coping, continued Catastrophic thinking can be reduced byLearning to detect it when it occurs.Learning to dispute irrational assumptions.Defusing stressful situations with humor.Reinterpreting stressful situations in a more positive light.
20Appraisal-Focused Coping, continued Humor as a stress reducerHumor can lessen the negative impact of stress on mood for many reasons:It creates a more positive appraisalIt increases positive emotionsIt facilitates positive social interactions, which reduce stressSee Figure 4.9 for more information.
21Figure Possible explanations for the link between humor and wellness. Research suggests that a good sense of humor buffers the effects of stress and promotes wellness. Four hypothesized explanations for the link between humor and wellness are outlined in the middle column of this diagram. As you can see, humor may have a variety of beneficial effects.
22Appraisal-Focused Coping, continued Positive reinterpretation can also buffer stress in the following ways:We can recognize that “things could be worse”.We can utilize “benefit finding” in a bad situation (searching for something good in a bad experience).
23Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using systematic problem-solvingEvidence shows that problem-solving skills can be increased through training (Heppner & Lee, 2002, 2005) and by using these steps:Clarify the problem.Generate alternative courses of action.Evaluation alternatives and select a course of action.Take action while maintaining flexibility.
24Problem-Focused Coping, continued Seeking helpIt is often helpful to seek aid from friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.Cultural factors in seeking help:Asians, Asian Americans, and individuals from collectivistic cultures are less likely to seek help from others.This is based in a cultural tendency to avoid “burdening” others with one’s problems.
25Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectivelyA common source of stress is feeling there is not enough time to accomplish tasks.Often, this can be improved by using the time we have more effectively.
26Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectively, continuedThe causes of wasted timeInability 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.
27Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectively, continuedThe problem of procrastinationAbout 70-90% of college students put off academic assignments (Knaus, 2000).Many claim to benefit from this tactic (e.g., saying they “work well under pressure”).
28Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectively, continuedWhy do students procrastinate?Desire to minimize time on a task.Desire to optimize efficiency.Close proximity to reward.Students often get rewarded for it.However, procrastinators also tend to experience more anxiety and health problems.
29Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectively, continuedTime management techniquesMonitor your use of time – keep a record to see where it all goes (see Figure 4.11).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.
30Figure 4. 11. Example of a time log Figure Example of a time log. Experts recommend keeping a detailed record of how you use your time if your are to improve your time management. This example shows the kind of record keeping that should be done.
31Problem-Focused Coping, continued Using time more effectively, continuedProtect 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”.
32Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Enhancing emotional intelligenceEmotional intelligence – “the ability to perceive and express emotion, use emotions to facilitate thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion”.
33Emotion-Focused Coping, continued 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.
34Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Expressing emotionsEfforts 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.
35Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Managing hostility and forgiving othersWhen 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.
36Emotion-Focused Coping, continued ExercisingRegular exercisers have increased emotional control and less emotional distress (Oaten & Cheng, 2006).To achieve maximum benefits, follow these “rules”:You must want to exercise.Engage in aerobic exercise.Exercise on a regular basis.
37Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Using meditation and relaxationMeditation – refers to “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 that indicate a state of deep relaxation.
38Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Meditation benefits, continuedIncreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which indicates a focusing of attention.Lower levels of stress hormones.Lower anxiety.Better mood.A sense of control.
39Emotion-Focused Coping, continued Using relaxation proceduresOne well-known technique is Benson’s “relaxation response”. Four factors are critical (see Figure 4.14):A quiet environment.A mental device (or focal point).A passive attitude.A comfortable position.
41Application: Coping with Loss Death is a taboo topic in our culture, so Americans cope with death anxiety through avoidance.This is facilitated by the death system – “ the collection of rituals and procedures used by a culture to handle death”.Individuals with well-formed philosophies about death have less death anxiety.
42Application: Coping with Loss, continued The process of dyingAccording to Kubler-Ross (1969, 1970), people evolve through five stages as they confront their own death:Stage 1: DenialStage 2: AngerStage 3: BargainingStage 4: DepressionStage 5: Acceptance
43Application: Coping with Loss, continued Bereavement and grievingBereavement – refers “to the painful loss of a loved one through death”.Mourning – refers “to the formal practices of an individual and a community in response to a death”.
44Application: Coping with Loss, continued The grieving processBowlby (1980) describes grieving as a four-stage process:Stage 1: NumbnessStage 2: YearningStage 3: Disorganization and DespairStage 4: Reorganization
45Application: Coping with Loss, continued Grief after the death of a spouse can take various forms:Absent grief: low levels of depression before and after the spouse’s deathChronic grief: high levels of depression before and after the spouse’s deathCommon grief: increased depression shortly after the spouse’s death, followed by a decreaseCommon grief is not, in fact, the most frequent pattern (see Figure 4.15).
46INSERT FIG 4.15Figure Five reactions to spousal loss. Researchers gathered data on 205 older individuals prior to spousal loss and 6 months and 18 months following spousal loss. Ninety percent of the subjects exhibited one of the five bereavement patterns shown in the figure. Contrary to popular belief, “absent grief” or the “resilient pattern” was the most frequently experienced reaction, while “common grief” occurred relatively infrequently. Traditional views of grief hold that the “common grief” reaction is the only healthy response to loss, but numerous studies contradict that view. (Adapted from Bonanno et al., 2002)
47Application: Coping with Loss, continued Coping with various types of lossMental health professionals offer the following advice:Seek support while you are grieving.Care for your own emotional needs while grieving.Care for your own physical needs while grieving.Be aware and plan for grief triggers.