There’s been a lot of talk about resilience and coping over the past year and a half. Some of us have had our coping skills and strategies tested in new and demanding ways. Many of us have learned we can cope with and grow from more challenge than we expected!
According to the American Psychological Association, a coping strategy is “an action, a series of actions, or a thought process used in meeting a stressful or unpleasant situation or in modifying one’s reaction to such a situation. Coping strategies typically involve a conscious and direct approach to problems.”
Sometimes, when we’re in the middle of navigating change and challenges, we don’t always get the opportunity to pause and reflect on what coping skills and strategies are serving us best or which ones need an update to become more effective.
One of the things we do in Health Coaching is talk through the specifics of what strengths, skills and strategies are helping us be successful – whether that’s achieving goals, solving problems or weathering adversity. When it comes to coping, there are many aspects to explore.
Name your coping strategies. First, when things settle down, take some time to consider what actions and attitudes got you through a challenging experience. It may be helpful to write them down and give each a name so you can increase your clarity about what specific strategies you used.
Assess the effectiveness of your coping strategies. All coping is coping! But, some strategies get us better results than others. Coping strategies can be adaptive (helpful; has a positive effect), maladaptive (unhelpful; may have negative consequences), or non-productive (no effect, neutral). A next step would be to consider what strategies worked well? Which ones didn’t have the desired effect? Which ones got in the way or had negative outcomes?
Did you use problem- or emotion-focused coping? Problem-focused coping means we direct our action and thinking toward changing or eliminating “the problem,” namely, whatever situation or event is causing us stress in the first place.
Emotion-focused coping means we direct our action and thinking toward soothing the physiological stress and unpleasant emotions the problem or stressful situation creates.
We can always benefit from both approaches, but sometimes we tend to over-rely on one or the other. Take a look at your coping strategies list and consider what your balance is.
What skills need to be developed to make coping more effective? Maybe you’ve heard that mindfulness is something that can help people navigate stress. Or perhaps you know certain communication or social skills would improve stressful interactions at work. Both could lead to effective coping strategies, but if they are skills you’ve never used or practiced before, trying them for the first time in the middle of adversity may leave you disappointed with the result.
Take a look at your list of strategies – to make your coping more effective, consider what might you need to learn more about? What behaviors or skills might you need to practice? Then, when things are well, gather resources, implement practice routines, or recruit support to develop your skills.
Do you cope before, during, or after stressful events? We can improve our resilience if we surround stressful events with adaptive coping strategies! Take a look at your list again – when did you deploy your strategies? Is there a particular timeframe around stressful events that needs a boost? For example, maybe you’re good at planning time to recover from challenges, but can see how some increased preparation could help you manage the stress of difficulties.
Taking time to consider your best coping strengths, skills and supports can help you feel confident and capable when the next wave of adversity hits, because you’ll be going into it with greater clarity and intention.
If you would like to explore your coping strategies in more depth, join Health Coach Amanda Fox for a six-week series, “Coping Skills and Strategies for Stress Management,” starting March 1 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. In this group health-coaching series, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about what attitudes and actions help us cope well. You’ll also work through the steps above to leave the series with your own personalized coping plan for improved stress management. Click here to register in Link to Health.
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