In my last post, Coping with Adversity: 7 Essential Qualities You Can Learn, I promised I would expand on the various issues listed. Therefore, this post is digging deeper into two of those features: emotions and actions.
We all tend to favor certain coping strategies and this is most evident when some crisis occurs. We stick with what we know because we focus on the benefits rather than the limitations of that particular coping style. Emotion-focused coping is different to problem-focused and both differ from avoidance, which is the third main form of coping.
If you’ve read my previous post you may recall that emotional regulation is about keeping emotions in check and not allowing them to dictate the agenda. This is important because many a bad feeling has been forged as a result of things said or done that we later regret. It’s very human to be caught up in emotions and of course not every crisis in life has a solution to it. Neither do we have the capacity to prevent or control upsets, so sometimes the best solution is to find a way of dealing with the resulting pain.
Emotion-focused coping can involve several things. Closest to most of us is the reliance we place on family and friends to unpack our emotions in order to gain reassurance and support. More formally we may turn to a counselor or perhaps seek some form of spiritual guidance.
Some people deal with all the problems and practicalities following a crisis before the emotions catch up with them. Others are so overwhelmed with the emotional impact of a crisis they find it hard to do anything until these have, in some measure, been attended to. Picking up the pieces after a crisis is a form of action and a positive problem-focused strategy appears to work best. Problem-focused coping allows us finally to exercise control over the ramifications of a situation we previously had little or no control over. We become responsible for a plan of action and our optimism and resilience slowly increases as we move forward with it.
If you’re more emotion focused it’s important to find a balance by attempting to come up with an action plan as a way to move forward. If you don’t there’s a danger of becoming overly self-immersed or possibly self-destructive. If your preferred coping style seems to be problem-focused then don’t ignore your emotional side by developing complex and possibly unrealistic plans as one or more distractions.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.