As we learned in the previous article, coping strategies are typically categorized into two categories: Adaptive (healthy) and Maladaptive (unhealthy). In 1966 (and then in 1984, with the help of Susan Folkman) Richard Lazarus further expanded on the concept of "adaptive" and "maladaptive" by breaking down adaptive strategies into two categories: Emotion-focused and Problem-focused. Lazarus believed that it's not the stressor that matters as much as the type of resources you use to deal with it.
When a stressor can be changed by taking action, Lazarus and Folkman recommend using problem-focused techniques. If the stressor is long-term and/or not within your power to control, they suggest using emotion-focused strategies in order to help you deal with the feelings that are associated with the stressor. Unhealthy or "empty strategies" should be used as little as possible, if at all.
In our coping assessment (see more information on COSA) we expand on Lazarus and Folkman's theory. Here's how the coping strategies break down:
Problem-Focused Coping: These methods of handling stress consist of taking action in order to change the stressor and/or resolve the issue that brought it about.
Emotion-Focused Coping: Given that some problems are not within your ability to change (e.g. a death of a loved one, a break-up with no chance of reconciliation, dealing with long-term construction detours on your work route), the goal of these coping strategies are to manage the negative emotions surrounding the stressor.
Empty Coping Methods: These coping strategies are generally not very helpful in stressful situations and could, in fact, make things worse.