What are Coping Strategies?
Differing forms of stress are commonly experienced by many people. Coping strategies are the ways that people deal with the stress that they feel. Basically, coping strategies fall into two categories, successful or unsuccessful, or, to put it another way, effective or not effective.
Coping strategies start developing very naturally after babies are born. A baby feels discomfort in some form, is hungry, is wet, or wants attention, and that is stress. A common coping strategy for babies in unconsciously seeking to reduce their stress is to cry. That gets the parent’s attention, who then does something to alleviate the stress that they perceive that the child is experiencing. This is a coping strategy at the most fundamental level.
As the child gets older, different forms of stress are experienced, and to deal with them varying coping strategies are developed. There are two sources for the coping strategies learned by children as they grow: the coping behavior that they observe in adults close to them, and the coping strategies which they develop independently by intuition and trial and error.
In the development of coping strategies, the perception of control is a critical element. The purpose of coping strategies is to gain control of some particular situation which is causing the stress, and through exerting the control, reduce the stress. The belief in the actual amount of control exerted by the coping strategy may be real or perceived. If the coping strategy helps the individual actually gain some control of the stress-inducing factor, then the effect of the coping strategy is real. If, on the other hand, the coping strategy only appears to affect the stress-inducing element, but does not actually do so, that is perceived control.
The differences in coping strategies is important. This is because stress-inducing coping strategies that have a real effect in controlling the cause of the stress, and through the exertion of that coping strategy, the stress-inducing situation is reduced in its stressful effects, that can be considered to be a successful coping strategy. If the control over the stress-creating situation is not real, but only seemingly effective (in avoiding the problem, for example, as in denial), then the coping strategy is unsuccessful because it doesn’t actually reduce or eliminate the stress by affecting its source. It merely displaces or postpones it.
As people go through life, they develop a broad array of coping strategies, each focused on some particular or general source of stress. Many are successful, but also, often, some are not. That is where the psychologist and psychological counseling come in. The psychologist has the special training to help you to discover the actual source of the stress. As things happen to us in life, feelings of stress may arise from a variety of sources, and sometimes they are combined, and sometimes we feel the stress but have difficulty in specifically identifying the source of the stress. Thus, in order to develop effective and useful coping strategies, you must first accurately and specifically identify the source of the stress. That is what develops out of the input from and your interaction with a psychologist. The psychologist helps you to determine exactly what the source or sources of the stress is/are.
Once that has been accomplished, then the next step for the psychologist is to determine approaches to the problem, and the creation and development of effective coping strategies is the critical part of the process. Through the individual’s working closely with the psychologist, one or more successful coping strategies is developed which the individual then applies and puts to use in the alleviation of stress from the identified source or sources. Therefore, the psychologist provide knowledge and insight which the individual does not have, and the psychologist uses that knowledge and insight to create successful coping strategies that you can use to reduce the stress in your life.
Thus, if you are feeling out of control of the stressors in your life and the coping strategies that you are using don’t seem to be working, then it’s time to consult with a psychologist.
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