There are several different strategies that people use for coping with stress, and each type of coping strategy brings unique benefits. When coping with stress, the following two main strategies are useful:
Solution-Based Coping With StressWhen someone employs solution-based coping strategies for coping with stress, they work to identify areas of their lives that can be changed, and follow a plan that will bring about change. Solution-based coping includes eliminating stressors (quitting a stressful job, breaking up with a toxic partner, paring down a busy schedule, etc.) as a means of eliminating the stress that they can bring, before they bring it. This can be an extremely effective technique for coping with stress, and many of the uncomfortable emotions we experience along with stress—anxiety, anger, frustration—are signals that changes need to be made, if possible.
However, sometimes we find ourselves in stressful situations where we can’t make changes in our lives, and can’t eliminate the stressors that we experience. For example, we might be working at a job we can’t easily leave, and need to get along with difficult co-workers; we may find that our partner causes us stress, but is worth staying with anyway; we may find that every activity in our busy schedule is vital, and can’t be eliminated. In cases like these, we still have the option of appraisal-based coping with stress.
Appraisal-Based Coping With StressThis strategy of coping with stress involves how we feel about the stressors we face throughout the day. Appraisal-based coping strategies include cognitive restructuring, positive thinking, and humor, for example. Asking yourself whether something really needs to cause stress, or can just be accepted as part of life, finding the humor in the ridiculousness of a stressful situation, or finding someone who seems to be coping with stress in a particular way and exploring their attitude—these are all effective strategies that involve appraisal-based coping with stress.
One not about these strategies for coping with stress: it’s sometimes difficult to know when something can (and should) be changed, and when it should be dealt with mentally via acceptance. In fact, the famous serenity prayer that’s been so helpful in programs like AA and in daily life for many people, is all about these two styles of coping with stress: “God grant me the strength to change what I can, the patience to accept what I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
That’s why, when recommending a plan for coping with stress, I recommend an approach that generally includes both coping strategies, as well as some classic stress management techniques.
See this article on stress for specifics on creating a stress management plan that works, or scroll down for additional resources.