Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Two Coping Mechanisms

Two coping mechanisms I have used are biology-focused strategies and emotion-focused strategies. I have worked at changing my perception of the issue with emotion-focused strategies, and have utilized a biology-focused strategy as a resource for mediating stress. Specifically, I have utilized spirituality as an emotion-focused strategy and meditation as biology-focused approaches to coping.

Emotion-focused Coping

Carver (2011) refers to the use of spirituality as spiritual coping. Diener and Seligman (2004) believed people who believe their life matters, are deeply reflective and develop a sense of spiritual purpose have a greater sense of well-being. My choice of coping skills may come from a need to feel like part of something larger than myself as well as a general belief that finding spiritual meaning in life is central to psychological health and well-being (Ryff & Singer, 1998). Perhaps another reason I continue to employ this method of coping is that women use emotion-focused coping strategies more than men do (Kristofferzon, Lindqvist, & Nilsson, 2011).

Biology-focused Coping

Biology-focused coping involves behavior modifications that affect the physiological stress response (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012). It is a mind/body approach to coping that utilizes relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, and mindfulness to effect changes in an individual's biology (Dusek et al., 2008). The psychophysiological change that takes place as a result of utilizing a biology-focused approach has been called the relaxation response (RR) (Dusek et al., 2008). The RR has been found to elicit a genetic response, specifically that relaxation has the capacity to cause the expression of certain genes. Further, other physiological changes include lowered blood pressure, heart, and respiration rates, and beneficial changes in a variety of regions of the brain (Dusek et al., 2008; Lazar et al., 2000).

Efficacy of Strategies

The coping mechanisms I have used have been effective in reducing my stress. Emotion-focused strategies tend to be effective when coping with stressors that cannot be changed (Baldacchino & Draper, 2001). I cannot change the stressor, but I can change my perspective and my perception of the stressor (Laureate Education, Inc., 2012). Emotion-focused strategies involve a cognitive reappraisal process that includes reflection, examination, and exerting control over emotions. Carver (2011) explained spiritual and religious coping can include a variety of belief systems and perceptions and may be effective in creating a sense of calm in uncontrollable situations. Meditation and mindfulness are relaxation and awareness techniques that elicit a relaxation response and overall calming effects that have been known to have short- and long-term physiological benefits on the practitioner (Dusek et al., 2008). Deep relaxation gained from meditation has altered my ability to deal with acute and daily stressors as well as some of the chronic, unchangeable stressors that I face.

Problem solving and exercise are coping skills that I use every day as well. Problem solving is a problem-focused approach, which may be effective in circumstances in which addressing and changing a situation is the most effective way to reduce stress. In addition, exercise has always played an important role in my mental health. Exercise has been well established as a stress reducing behavior, and an effective intervention for depression and anxiety and other stress-related mental illnesses (Edenfield & Blumenthal, 2011).

Baldacchino, D., & Draper, P. (2001). Spiritual coping strategies: A review of the nursing research literature. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 34, 833-841.

Carver, C. S. (2011). Coping. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 221–229). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Diener, E., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 1-31.

Dusek, J. A., Otu, H. H., Wohlhueter, A. L., Bhasin, M., Zerbini, L. F., Joseph, M. G., & ... Libermann, T. A. (2008). Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response. Plos ONE, 3(7), 1-8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002576

Edenfield, T. M., & Blumenthal, J. A. (2011). Coping. In R. J. Contrada & A. Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 301–319). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Kristofferzon, M., Lindqvist, R., & Nilsson, A. (2011). Relationships between coping, coping resources and quality of life in patients with chronic illness: a pilot study. Scandinavian Journal Of Caring Sciences, 25(3), 476-483. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00851.x

Laureate Education, Inc. (2012). The Focus of Coping. [Handout]. Baltimore: Author.

Lazar, S. W., Bush, G., Gollub, R. L., Fricchione, G. L., Khalsa, G., & Benson, H. (2000). Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation. NeuroReport, 11(7), 1581???1585. doi: 10.1097/00001756-200005150-00041

Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological inquiry, 9, 1-28.

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