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Coping Mechanisms - Managing Stress and Anxiety

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Coping mechanisms are the strategies used by people to face stress. Read the article below to know about the different types of coping mechanisms.

Medically reviewed by

Aqsa Sharif

Published At September 19, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 19, 2023


Coping is the behaviors and thoughts to manage external and internal stresses. It is a term used for voluntary and conscious mobilization of acts, defense mechanisms that are unconscious and subconscious adaptive responses, both of which reduce or tolerate stress. Coping means adjusting to negative events when the person tries to maintain emotional equilibrium and a positive image. Stress is associated with negative changes like losing loved ones or unemployment. Coping skills are the tactics people use to deal with stressful situations, making them feel better about themselves and perform their best. It's important to establish coping mechanisms that will reduce emotional distress.

What Is Coping?

The coping mechanism definition is an adaptation to environmental stress based on consciousness and unconsciousness that enhances control over behavior. It is a psychological strategy that a person relies on to manage stress. It is how a person deals with stress to lead a healthy life. It has become a popular terminology among everyone. The coping mechanism deals with stress and uncomfortable emotions. The coping mechanisms decrease the side effects of stress. The side effects of stress include high blood pressure, increased breathing, alertness, high senses, high heart rate, and release of glucose into the bloodstream. Coping strategies are the skills and tools used to challenge and change stress. They are emotion-focused, where the individuals focus on their feelings, and problem-solving, and try to eliminate stress.

What Are the Coping Strategies?

Coping is the process of cognitive and behavioral approaches that manage threatening or difficult situations and plays an integral role in the mental and physical well-being of the individual. Coping involves tolerating and adjusting to negative events. Psychological stress involves negative life changes. The perception contributes to low self-esteem, which leads to depression and anxiety. It involves adjustments to unusual stresses. Great energy and effort are needed in daily routine. Stresses also include chronic pain, illness, and long-lasting financial problems. It also includes the death of parents and job loss.

What Are the Strategies That Can Be Used for Coping?

The strategies for coping are:

  • Practicing relaxing techniques such as medication, mindfulness, and deep breathing.

  • Setting goals and making to-do lists.

  • Lower the expectations from others.

  • Engage in problem-solving activities.

  • Maintain distressing emotions.

  • Attempt to change the source of the stress.

What Are the Types of Coping Mechanisms?

The types of coping mechanisms are religious coping, emotion-focused coping, meaning-focused and social coping.

  • Emotion-Focused Coping - This addresses the problems caused by the distress. It is essential that coping is process-oriented and can change over time. Problem-focused coping includes active efforts to alter the troubled environment, manage stressful situations, and eliminate the source of the stress through individual behavior. The meaning-focused coping is appraisal-based coping, where the individuals focus on values, beliefs, and goals to motivate and sustain coping. For example, the incongruence between the actual and desired relationships can be solved by lowering the expectations about relationships. The problem-focused coping is achieved by re-establishing contact with loved ones or making new friends. Problem-focused coping is also called seeking information and breaking the problem down. Delaying action can be a useful problem-focused strategy. Social support involves both emotional and concrete aid from others.

  • Religious Coping - Religious coping is emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to stress. It involves using religious beliefs to cope with stressful life situations such as physical illness and depression. Religion is involved in reconstructing the traumatic events framework for understanding the senseless accident, unbearable pain, and unjust outcome. There is a positive relationship between religious coping and mental health.

  • Social Coping - It is an interpersonally based stress-management strategy. These persons use coping styles that seek support from friends, family members, and service providers through difficult situations or events. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication, basic social skills, rewardingness and understanding the cooperation, empathy, and different kinds of relationships.

  • Meaning-Focused Coping - Meaning-focused coping faces uncontrollable situations such as natural disasters. The objective of meaning-focused coping in post-traumatic growth is to explore how three different types of coping affect the mental health of earthquake victims. Meaning-based coping is the key to positive emotions at times of great stress. It enables people to find value and purpose in their experience and manage the situation. Positive emotions are associated with difficult periods in our lives. They need to focus much on maintaining good experiences as much as reducing negative emotions.

  • Avoidance-Focused Coping - Avoidance coping style is avoiding stress by doing an alternative task or activity. It is demonstrated by seeking a distraction.

What Is Unhealthy Coping?

Coping is classified as adaptive and maladaptive strategies. Maladaptive strategies include behaviors that do not benefit the individual in the long run. Depending on the outcome, the problem, emotion, meaning, social and avoidance coping are maladaptive and ineffective. The results are harmful to the individual. Unhealthy emotion-focused coping involves keeping oneself busy, failing to talk about emotions, and toxic positivity. Unhealthy problem-focused coping includes over-analysis. Unhealthy, meaning-focused coping involves overthinking, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorders following trauma. The unhealthy social coping mechanisms are venting and isolation.

What Is Healthy Coping?

Opposite to unhealthy coping, healthy coping will effectively mitigate the impact of psychological responses. Healthy emotion-focused coping involves meditation, breathing, cognitive reframing, journaling, positive thinking, and forgiveness.


Healthy coping skills protect the person from problems and distress. After understanding the two main coping skills, selecting strategies best suited for different types of stress is better. If someone struggles to practice healthy coping skills, talking to a therapist can work very well and will serve their mental well-being for years.

Aqsa Sharif
Aqsa Sharif

Psychologist/ Counselor


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