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Stress and Coping


Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Stress and Coping

Negative coping | Positive coping | So what?


Stress and coping are directly related. The sequence of activity is broadly:

  • We seek to meet needs and achieve goals
  • There are gaps between what we seek and what we are likely to get
  • The existence of these gaps leads tensions
  • The tensions are experienced as feelings of stress
  • To help reduce the feelings of stress we indulge in coping

In other words stress leads to coping, which seeks to reduce stress.

Negative coping

The trouble with coping is that it is seldom good at its job. We try to reduce stress but we seldom succeed, at least in the longer term. A reason for the failure of coping this is that actions taken often seeks short-term, even momentary relief.

 While negative coping may work, it can easily lead to continued or even increased stress. This is due to satisficing, where, when stress is high, we seek to reduce stress directly rather than achieve performance goals.

For example if I scream at a friend who is persistently trying to get me to do something I do not want to do, them I may reduce stress as they back off, yet I may have damaged the relationship and so set up much greater future stress.

Positive coping

While negative coping creates a vicious circle that leads to ever more stress, positive coping acts effectively to reduce stress.

To be effective, positive coping needs to offer short-term relief from extreme stress while acting to reduce the long-term overall stress. In doing this, it should avoid letting stress increase beyond the overload point where the person cracks up and becomes dysfunctional and falls into negative coping.

The best form of positive coping reduces the recurrence of stress by seeking and addressing root causes. This may well make use of therapeutic techniques to help the person think differently and so experience less overall stress.

So what?

Understand the relationship between stress and coping, and how one leads to another. In this way you can create coping that achieve your ends, although do be aware that coping is only a temporary response and is not really a change of minds.

See also

Stress, Managing Stress


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