Coping strategies: what do they consist of?

Throughout life we ​​encounter a multitude of stressful, frustrating or challenging situations that we are forced to face. The processes and mechanisms that we put in place to face these demands are what we call coping strategies.

We do not all respond to difficult circumstances in the same way, however, we tend to be quite stable and tend to repeat the same performance patterns, even when they are not functional. And this is where the problem arises.

During childhood we acquire a series of strategies and ways of responding based on upbringing and early experiences. However, those attitudes that once could protect us and be useful to us, maybe today they are not limiting as adults.

For this reason, it is essential to become aware of which are the coping strategies that we generally use and to what extent they are being useful or harmful to us.

Types of coping strategies

There are many coping strategies to which we can turn to in a complicated situation. However, for ease of understanding they can be divided into several categories.

The way of dealing with problems is usually repetitive, even when the results are not favorable.

Active or passive

Active coping strategies are those in which the person searches for information or tries to find a solution to the problem proactively. For example, if a conflict arises with a friend, you try to talk and negotiate.

Conversely, passive strategies consist of avoiding the conflict situation, minimizing their importance or hoping that they will fix themselves. Following the example above, the person could resort to postponing the conversation, withdrawing into himself, and turning over what happened over and over again.

Focused on the problem or emotion

Another important factor to consider is whether the chosen coping strategies focus on addressing the problematic situation or reducing its emotional impact. Focusing on the problem is most useful when faced with a controllable circumstance, which is up to us.

If it is an event that is beyond our control or responsibility, emotion-focused strategies can help us limit the suffering resulting from the conflict.

For example, if we know that a high level of English is required for the job we want, it is more adaptive to sign up for a course to learn than to tell a loved one how bad we feel about not being able to access the position.

Instead, resorting to social support to feel better if it can be functional if we are faced with a breakup in which the other person has decided to end the relationship and there is nothing we can do about it.

Keep reading: What is the importance of expressing our emotions?

Affective, behavioral or cognitive

Coping strategies can be cognitive, affective or behavioral, depending on whether we focus on the intellect, emotions or behaviors when addressing the problem. In all cases, the selected strategies can be helpful or dysfunctional.

Some of the affective coping strategies can be the following:

  • Self-control emotions and show no expression whatsoever.
  • Use social support from those close to you or, on the contrary, isolate yourself and reject any contact or help.
  • Be aggressive and irritable even with people who are not related to the problem.

Some examples of behavioral strategies are as follows:

  • Postpone any type of performance and avoid everything related to the problematic situation until you have the information or resources to deal with it.
  • Coping with conflict directly, without overthinking it.
  • Avoid coping, disconnect from the problem and act as if it had never appeared or was not with us.

Finally, within the cognitive strategies are the following:

  • Find useful information regarding the problem.
  • Reassess the situation in order to view her in a more positive or less threatening way.
  • Mentally analyze what happened or what is about to happen, worry or remember the mistakes that were made.
  • Use a sense of humor to de-dramatize.

Couple breakups are situations that are assumed from different angles and with various coping strategies.

Find out more: How to take a positive attitude to an adverse situation

How can coping strategies help us?

Knowing how to choose the most appropriate coping strategies in each case can bring us great advantages. In the first place, we will be able to resolve those situations that are under our control.

We will avoid prolonging or increasing suffering unnecessarily, obtaining greater psychological well-being. What's more, we will improve our performance and our social relationships.

Analyzing, solving, de-dramatizing, speaking openly, avoiding paying our frustration with others are very useful actions that should be part of everyone's repertoire.

Be flexible in choice

In general, coping strategies focused on problem avoidance are the most maladaptive. But beyond this, there is no valid and adequate strategy for all situations. Therefore, perfecting our choice is a process.

It is about being flexible and allowing us to explore new ways of acting that can bring us more benefits than those we have been using up to now. Try it, you will be surprised by the results!