Chapter Outline

  1. The concept of coping
    1. Coping: efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress
    2. General points about coping
      1. People cope with stress in different ways
      2. Individuals have own styles of coping
      3. Coping strategies vary in their adaptive value
  2. Common coping patterns of limited value
    1. Giving up
      1. Learned helplessness: passive behavior produced by exposure to unavoidable aversive events
        1. Martin Seligman did early research on animal subjects
        2. Originally viewed as a product of conditioning
          1. But current view includes cognitive interpretation of event as factor
          2. Belief that events are beyond your control is important element of current model
      2. Generally not viewed as positive method of coping
        1. Associated with increased distress
        2. Can contribute to depression
      3. Social withdrawal is related strategy
      4. Giving up may be adaptive in some situations, particularly if goals are unrealistic
    2. Striking out at others
      1. Aggression: any behavior intended to hurt someone, either physically or verbally
      2. Aggression may be displaced onto substitute target
      3. Freud suggested aggression can produce catharsis: a release of emotional tension
        1. Thus, aggression can be adaptive, according to Freud
        2. But recent research indicates that aggression does not reliably lead to catharsis
    3. Indulging yourself
      1. Evidence relating stress to increases in eating, smoking, drug consumption
      2. Recent manifestation is Internet addiction, which consists of spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet and inability to control online use
      3. Strategy can have merit if kept under control, but excesses generally result in negative consequences
    4. Blaming yourself
      1. When confronted with stress, people may become self-critical
      2. Albert Ellis calls this catastrophic thinking and suggests that it is rooted in irrational assumptions
        1. Recognizing one's weaknesses has some value, but negative self-talk is generally counterproductive
        2. Can contribute to development of depression
    5. Defensive coping
      1. Nature of defense mechanisms
        1. Defense mechanisms are largely unconscious reactions that protect a person from unpleasant emotions such as anxiety and guilt
        2. Protect against the emotional discomfort (e.g., anxiety) elicited by stress
        3. Generally work through self-deception
        4. Typically operate at level of unconscious, but can operate at varying levels of consciousness
        5. Are entirely normal patterns of coping
      2. Can illusions be healthy?
        1. Generally, no
          1. Operate as an avoidance strategy
          2. Represent "wishful thinking" that accomplishes little
          3. Repression has been found to relate to poor health
          4. Use energy that could be directed more constructively
        2. Some researchers suggest that illusions may be adaptive for mental health
        3. Others have expressed skepticism
          1. Suggest that accuracy and realism are healthy
          2. Report data showing that overly favorable self-ratings are correlated with maladaptive personality traits
        4. Contradictory findings may be due to researchers defining illusions and mental health differently
  3. The nature of constructive coping
    1. Constructive coping refers to efforts to deal with stressful events that are judged to be relatively healthful
        Unrelated to "academic" intelligence
      1. Favorably related to mental and physical health, and to measures of success
      2. Constructive thinkers tend to create less stress for themselves
    2. What makes a coping strategy constructive?
      1. Involves confronting problems directly
      2. Based on realistic appraisals of one's stress and coping resources
      3. Involves learning to recognize potentially disruptive emotional reactions to stress
      4. Involves learning to exert control over potentially harmful habitual behaviors
  4. Appraisal-focused constructive coping
    1. Albert Ellis's rational thinking
      1. Rational-emotive therapy: an approach to therapy that focuses on altering clients' patterns of irrational thinking to reduce maladaptive emotions and behavior
      2. Problematic emotional reactions are caused by catastrophic thinking, which refers to unrealistic appraisals of stress that exaggerate the magnitude of one's problems
      3. Ellis explains his ideas using a three-step sequence
        1. Activating event is any potentially stressful transaction
        2. Belief system is one's appraisal of the stress
        3. Consequence is consequence of negative thinking, which is typically emotional distress
      4. Ellis suggests that the belief system is responsible for causing the consequence
      5. The roots of catastrophic thinking
        1. Unrealistic appraisals of stress are caused by irrational assumptions
        2. Faulty assumptions generate catastrophic thinking, emotional distress
      6. Reducing catastrophic thinking
        1. Learn how to detect catastrophic thinking
        2. Learn how to dispute irrational assumptions
    2. Humor as a stress reducer
      1. Finding humor in a stressful situation redefines the situation as less stressful
      2. Laughter can also discharge pent-up emotions
      3. Empirical evidence indicates that humor moderates impact of stress
    3. Positive reinterpretation
      1. Making positive comparisons with others seems to be a relatively healthful coping mechanism
      2. Another approach is to look for something positive in a setback
  5. Problem-focused constructive coping
    1. Using systematic problem solving
      1. Research findings indicate that active coping and planning are favorably related to higher self-esteem, lower anxiety
      2. The better one's problem solving abilities, the fewer stress-related difficulties experienced
      3. Four steps in systematic problem solving
        1. Clarify the problem
        2. Generate alternative courses of action
          1. Avoid tendency to insist on solutions
          2. Avoid temptation to go with first alternative that comes to mind
          3. Good strategy is brainstorming: generating as many ideas as possible while withholding criticism and evaluation
        3. Evaluate alternatives and select course of action
          1. Ask yourself whether each alternative is a realistic plan
          2. Consider costs associated with each alternative
          3. Compare desirability of probable outcomes of each alternative
        4. Take action while maintaining flexibility
    2. Seeking help
      1. Make use of social support system
      2. Many people are reluctant to seek help because of potential embarrassment
    3. Using time more effectively
      1. Learning sound time-management strategies can reduce time pressure
      2. Causes of wasted time
        1. Inability to set or stick to priorities
        2. Inability to say no
        3. Inability to delegate responsibility
        4. Inability to throw things away
        5. Inability to accept anything less than perfection
      3. The problem of procrastination (the tendency to delay tackling tasks until the last minute)
        1. Research findings indicate that about 20% of adults are chronic procrastinators
        2. Studies show that procrastination tends to have negative impact on quality of task performance
        3. As deadline approaches, procrastinators tend to experience elevated anxiety, increased health problems
        4. Why do people procrastinate?
          1. Personality factors include low conscientiousness, low self-efficacy, and excessive perfectionism
          2. Other contributing factors include irrational thinking, fear of failure
      4. Time-management techniques
        1. Monitor your use of time
          1. Create categories of time use
          2. Keep written record
        2. Clarify and prioritize your goals
        3. Plan activities using a schedule
        4. Protect prime time
        5. Increase efficiency
          1. Handle paper once
          2. Tackle one task at a time
          3. Group similar tasks together
          4. Make use of downtime
    4. Improving self-control
      1. Need self-control to handle many of life's problems effectively
      2. Behavior modification can be useful technique (see Application at end of chapter)
  6. Emotion-focused constructive coping