When you encounter something that causes you distress or discomfort, your first impulse might be to solve the problem that’s creating your pain. In many cases, removing the external problem feels like the easiest solution as it’s something tangible that we can control. While this may work in some situations, it might not always be the best way to develop lasting coping skills. Another option is emotion-focused coping, a coping strategy that focuses more on your response to a problem than on the problem itself.
Emotion-focused coping is a powerful skill, especially when you’re facing a challenge that’s outside of your control. If you’re trying to improve your emotional resilience, you should understand what emotion-focused coping is, how it works, and how you can practice the technique in your daily life.
What Is Emotion-focused Coping?
Emotion-focused coping is a coping technique that encourages you to work through your emotions regarding a problem rather than solving the problem itself. While some issues are easily resolved with problem-solving skills, others are much harder to avoid. Developing your emotion-focused coping skills allows you to manage difficult situations even if you can’t actually fix the problem.
Emotion-focused coping requires a great deal of introspection and self-awareness. The goal is to recognize how you’re feeling in response to a challenging situation and relieve yourself of the stress that situation causes you. Sometimes, changing the way that you view your circumstances and your emotions can help you instantly feel happier and calmer.
Problem-focused Coping vs Emotion-focused Coping
While emotion-focused coping emphasizes your emotional response to a challenge, problem-focused coping encourages you to fix the problem causing your pain. Many people define themselves as problem-solvers, so their natural reaction to an external problem is to fix the issue.
Problem-focused coping can be an effective strategy when the issue is entirely within your control. However, many of the problems we encounter in life cannot be solved right away with our own actions. Both styles of coping have a role in a happy and healthy life.
Emotion-focused Coping Techniques
For many people, emotion-focused coping is not a natural skill. We want to remove the problems from our lives or avoid them altogether, but emotion-focused coping takes a different approach. It may take months or years for you to strengthen your emotion-focused coping skills, but the benefits this strategy will bring to your life are worth it.
The following are some of the most common emotion-focused coping examples:
Meditation is an incredibly helpful technique that can help you reach a wide variety of mental health goals. It’s especially useful for emotion-focused coping because it allows you to reach a heightened state of emotional self-awareness.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on how you feel in the present moment. The goal is not to force yourself to feel calm or to force your mind to stay blank. Instead, you can allow yourself to think and feel whatever naturally occurs in your mind. Let the thoughts and emotions come and go without judgment, and try to be a neutral observer of your own experiences.
When you start practicing mindfulness meditation, you only need to reserve a few minutes per day. Try to spend five minutes sitting quietly and focusing on the current moment. As the practice becomes more comfortable, you can lengthen the meditation. Over time, you’ll find yourself feeling more mindful and present throughout your daily life, and you won’t feel so overwhelmed by strong emotions.
In many ways, journaling is a similar experience to mindfulness meditation. It’s an opportunity to dedicate a few minutes of your time to yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings. Describing your experiences and emotions in words is a great way to gain insight into your mental health.
There are limitless ways for you to journal, so you should settle into a practice that meets your needs. Some people prefer to follow a specific structure or format for their journal entries, and others like to record their stream of consciousness. What’s most important is that you find an approach that’s sustainable for you.
Reframing is the practice of re-imagining a situation from a different perspective. When you can’t change the problem that’s creating your distress, you might be able to reframe it so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
For example, you might become stressed at work as you begin a project that you feel unprepared or unqualified for. Your initial response is to doubt yourself and question your abilities, so you feel an enormous amount of anxiety. However, you could reframe this situation by viewing it as an opportunity to expand your professional skills and challenge yourself. Nothing about your external situation has changed, but because you’ve redefined the experience in your mind, it feels much more manageable.
Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it can have powerful mental health benefits. If you feel lasting stress or pain from someone else’s wrongdoing, forgiveness is your personal decision to heal and move on from the experience.
The purpose of forgiveness is your own health and healing, not the other person’s. When you choose to forgive someone, you’re letting go of the anger, betrayal, and sadness that has been lingering in your mind. Once you absolve yourself of these emotions, you’ll likely find that you feel much freer and happier.
Therapy is a valuable opportunity for you to check in with yourself and explore your emotional processes. You could work with your counselor on your stress management, your emotional regulation, and other elements of emotion-focused coping. Your therapist will help you gain a better understanding of your emotional responses to the challenges in your life, and they’ll offer suggestions for you to strengthen your coping skills.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group provides counseling for individuals who hope to work on their emotion-focused coping and other valuable techniques. You can contact us today to speak with a therapist in Los Angeles.