As a therapist who works with a variety of populations and problems there are different interventions and techniques that work for different clients. However, there is one thing that works for everyone – no matter the age or the complaint – and that’s coping skills. A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 75% of Americans experienced symptoms of stress in any given month, and nearly 50% of the American population reported having a hard time falling asleep or laying awake for longer than usual because of their stress. That is a lot of people who are being affected by stress in our country. Unfortunately it seems the importance of coping skills has been overlooked by many. The stress level in our country is continuing to increase. So what do we do, or better yet, how do we cope?
Coping skills help us adapt and make sense of negative things that happen to us. If we are able to use coping skills effectively, they can do two things. First we can use these negative experiences and learn from them to become more healthy. And second, it makes us more secure in similar environments. There are a few different types of coping skills: problem focused vs. emotion focused, active vs. avoidant, and adaptive vs maladaptive.
Problem focused coping skills
These are also referred to as solution focused coping skills. You may use these to change the situation or problem that was causing your stress in the first place. Emotion focused coping skills are more specific to the emotions you are struggling with. Especially in the wake of a negative situation. An example of this type of coping skill would be reaching out to a therapist or friend. The importance of coping skills such as emotion focused coping skills center around discussing the emotions in order to better understand and process the situation. Both of these coping skills can be helpful depending on the situation you are struggling with.
Active coping skills vs. Avoidant coping skills
Similar to avoidant coping skills, these are looking at coping skills through a wider lens. An active coping skill is centered around an awareness of what is causing the stress. It is a focused effort to reduce the stress, either through problem focused or emotion focused coping skills. Avoidant coping skills may feel easier at first to approach. They characterized as avoiding the problem or ignoring and undervaluing the stress you are experiencing. It may feel really overwhelming to face the cause of the stress or try to tackle all of your emotions at once. Unfortunately though, using avoiding coping skills does not get to the root of the stress. Therefore it can continue to grow and worsen as time goes on.
Adaptive coping skills vs. Maladaptive coping skills
These are coping skills that are more effective long term. These coping skills are actively assessing the problem. Through you can got two different way. You may choose to search for solutions with problem focused coping skills. Or, you may reach out to others and use emotion focused coping skills. These both encourage healing and healthy habits. The importance of coping skills that are adaptive is key to managing high stress.
Maladaptive coping skills are mechanisms that may work at first but are not effective in the long run. Often these feel good for a short period of time but end up being unhealthy for your physical and mental health. Some common maladaptive coping skills are using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions. These also may look like lashing out at people who have angered you in some way. Avoidant coping skills are also considered maladaptive because they may help at first but do not get to the root of the problem.
Some common healthy coping skills include getting exercise, doing something relaxing like taking a walk or having a bath, seeking support from family and friends, watching a funny movie or reading a good book. There are so many options for finding healthy coping skills that fit your lifestyle. I know It can feel overwhelming to get started and many people struggle with motivation to create change. I highly recommend Family Therapy Associates if you are struggling to find motivation. They can help you navigate whatever your situation may be and start combating your stress with the importance of coping skills.