When we are facing stressful life events, we typically use many kinds of coping strategies to deal with them. We may use various coping strategies simultaneously, and strategies are also likely to change over time, depending on the effectiveness of the applied strategy.
Some say problem-solving coping strategies are better for one’s mental health as they provide a sense of control, whereas emotion-focused coping strategies may lead to lower perceptions of control and self-efficacy. This is not always the case though – consider the following example:
Some illnesses (e.g., severe forms of cancer) leave you with no control, then you will not benefit from trying to gain control over the illness because you won’t succeed in trying to do so.
Instead, you may get depressed over the fact that you cannot control it. In this case, acceptance may be the right coping strategy to use in the long term.
This example also serves the purpose of illustrating the fact that people can use different kinds of coping strategies simultaneously.
Even though someone accepts his illness, he may still use problem-focused coping on a day-to-day basis (e.g., by exerting health habits that prolong longevity). Beneath is a list of some of the most common coping strategies.
4 active coping strategies
- Confrontive coping: You take action and confront the problem
- Seeking social support: You seek informational and emotional support
- Planful problem-solving: You make a plan to solve the problem
- Positive reappraisal: You try to create a positive meaning and focus on personal growth
4 passive coping strategies
- Distancing: You expect that the problem solves itself (involves emotional detachment)
- Self-controlling: You make efforts to regulate feelings and actions
- Accepting responsibility: You accept your own role in the problem
- Escape-avoidance: You try to avoid the problem by wishful thinking and behavioral efforts