When you encounter a problem, what is your go-to strategy? What are coping techniques? How do you know which is the right one for you? Stress management techniques can fall into two categories: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Basically speaking, problem-focused (or solution-focused) coping strategies aim to eliminate sources of stress or work with the stressors themselves. Meanwhile, emotion-focused coping techniques aid you in becoming less emotionally reactive to the stressors you face. They alter the way you experience these situations so they impact you differently.
Many people think mainly of solution-focused coping strategies as the best way to manage stress. Cutting out the things that seem to cause us stress means we don't need to learn how to alter our responses to any stressors—there will be none left in our lives! However, it's not entirely possible to cut all stress out of our lives—some factors in our jobs, our relationships, or our lifestyles are simply prone to creating challenges. In fact, it wouldn't be entirely healthy to eliminate all stressors even if we could; a certain amount of stress is healthy.
Here are 5 emotion-focused coping techniques that can help you to better your mental health -
1. Journaling - Journaling allows you to manage emotions in several ways. It can provide an emotional outlet for stressful feelings. It also can enable you to brainstorm solutions to problems you face. Journaling also helps you to cultivate more positive feelings, which can help you to feel less stressed. It also brings other benefits for wellness and stress management, making it a great emotion-focused coping technique.
2. Meditation - Meditation can help you to separate yourself from your thoughts as you react to stress. So, you can stand back and choose a response rather than react out of panic or fear. Meditation also allows you to relax your body, which can reverse your stress response as well. Those who practice meditation tend to be less reactive to stress, too, so meditation is well worth the effort it takes to practice.
3. Cognitive Distortions - Recognising the way the mind might naturally alter what we see, what we tell ourselves about what we are experiencing, and the ways in which we may unknowingly contribute to our own problems can allow us to change these patterns. Become aware of common cognitive distortions, and you'll be able to catch yourself when you do this, and will be able to recognise and understand when others may be doing it as well.
4. Re-framing - Cognitive re-framing allows you to shift the way you see a problem, which can actually make the difference between whether or not you feel stressed by facing it. Re-framing techniques aren't about "tricking yourself out of being stressed," or pretending your stressors don't exist; re-framing is more about seeing solutions, benefits, and new perspectives.
5. Positive Thinking - Being an optimist involves specific ways of perceiving problems—ways that maximise your power in a situation, and keep you in touch with your options. Both of these things can reduce your experience of stress, and help you to feel empowered in situations that might otherwise overwhelm you.
Emotion-focused coping can help with both emotions and solutions. And the two types of coping strategies work well together in this way. While problem-focused strategies need to fit well with the specific stressors they are addressing, emotion-focused coping techniques work well with most stressors and need only fit the individual needs of the person using them.
Finding the right emotion focused coping strategies for your lifestyle and personality can provide you with an essential tool for stress relief and enable you to achieve greater physical and mental health.