Emotion Focused Coping: Working through difficulties

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Emotion Focused Coping: Working through difficulties

A coping strategy allows you to get through a difficult situation. Some of these strategies are healthy while others can turn into unhealthy habits. Emotion focused coping is an approach that helps you regulate your negative emotions when you are faced with stressors. Here is how you can develop healthy coping strategies that focus on your emotions and well-being.

Problem-Focused And Emotion-Focused Coping

A problem-based or solution-based approach consists in eliminating the cause of the problem you are dealing with. You could get rid of stressors by choosing a new career, making some changes to your lifestyle, or asking someone for help.

On the other hand, emotion focused coping is about changing the way you react to difficult situations. These coping skills are extremely important since you might not always be able to get rid of a stressor, or might need some time to implement a solution.

Developing healthy coping mechanisms based on regulating your emotions will help you face any situation. It will help you focus on your wellbeing while you work on finding solutions to your problems and implementing these solutions.

Ideally, you should be using a combination of these two approaches. Emotion-based coping will help you manage stress on a daily basis, and problem-based coping will help you tackle these issues for good.

Unhealthy Emotion-Focused Coping Techniques

Coping strategies are not always techniques that we adopt consciously. These strategies are sometimes developed out of necessity, and might not be healthy for you in the long-term.

It is important to identify unhealthy coping strategies so you can replace them with healthy alternatives. Occasionally relying on a negative strategy isn’t an issue, but it is time to make some changes if you find that you use unhealthy coping strategies to avoid stress on a daily basis.

Here are a few examples of what unhealthy coping strategies can look like:

  • Sulking and being in a bad mood when you encounter stress. This unhealthy strategy allows you to take your stress out on others, or to isolate yourself.
  • Blaming others is another common negative strategy. Figuring out who is to blame for a problem allows you to avoid finding a solution to the issue.
  • Denying that you are dealing with a difficult situation. This is a common unhealthy coping strategy since denying the situation exists means you don’t have to deal with it.
  • There are many other unhealthy strategies based on avoidance, such as physically avoiding a person or a place, or hiding in your daydreams to escape stressors.

Getting In Touch With Your Emotions

You can’t use emotion-focused coping if you aren’t in touch with your emotions. It is important to pay attention to the way you feel so you can determine which situations cause you to experience negative emotions.

Getting in touch with your emotions will make you feel more in control, and you will be able to plan for situations that are likely to trigger stress and other negative emotions.

You might also find that some situations bring up feelings that are connected to previous experiences. These situations aren’t overly stressful but cause you to experience negative emotions because of unresolved conflicts.

Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is a great place to start. This wheel includes a wide range of emotions and organizes them in different groups.

Looking at this wheel will help you put a name on the emotion you experience, and you will be able to see how these emotions progress in intensity throughout your day or week.

Using the wheel of emotions by itself won’t be enough. You should combine this tool with journaling to record your thoughts and feelings.

Journaling is an outlet worth exploring since you will be able to open up about your problems and emotions. You will be able to keep track of your progress and of the strategies you use to deal with stressors.

Putting your inner monologue down on paper and reading it again later will give you a fresh perspective. You might notice that some problems are blown out of proportions or that you tend to interpret things without having all the elements necessary to reach a conclusion.

Perceptions are often distorted by emotions and past experienced. Journaling will help you pinpoint how your feelings and experiences change the way you perceive reality.

Healthy Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies

These six emotion focused coping strategies will help you deal with stressors on a daily basis. Try to use at least one of these strategies a day if you are dealing with stress at the moment.

a woman meditating


Meditation is something you can practice every morning. This is also a strategy you can use to take a break whenever you feel overwhelmed.

Choose a time and place where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. Sit in a comfortable position and listen to relaxing music if you want to.

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Focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Clear your mind of any thoughts. You can either use your meditation session to get a break from a stressful situation and to avoid thinking about anything, or to get past your negative feelings and focus your attention on the issue you are dealing with so you can explore solutions.


This strategy is about finding a balance in your life. Work and other stressors can become overwhelming and cause you to experience stress even when you are at home.

Distractions are activities that will help you think about other things. A good distraction is an activity that allows you to focus on something else for a while and to experience positive emotions.

Think of distractions as a way to recharge your batteries. You might have a busy life and feel that you don’t have time for a hobby, but taking some time for yourself and the things you enjoy should be a priority.

Spending some time on your hobby, playing a sport, or finding something to do with your family or friends are great distractions. Don’t hesitate to try new things!

Learn To Communicate

Journaling will help you explore your feelings but won’t replace communication. Having a conversation with a family member or close friend about stressors will make you feel better.

You can talk about stressors to receive advice or to get something off your chest. Either way, make sure the person you are talking to understands why you need to talk. If possible, find someone who is a good listener.

If there is a person who might be able to help with an issue you are facing or who is causing you stress because of their actions or behaviors, it is important to communicate with them.

This is a conversation you should prepare for. Don’t approach it as a confrontation. You can have a friendly conversation and let them know how their actions or behavior are causing you to experience negative emotions.

If possible, give specific examples of things they do so they can understand what you are complaining about. Open up about the stress and other negative emotions you experience and make a simple request, such as asking the person to change a specific behavior.


It is very easy to become overwhelmed once you find yourself in a stressful situation. Your negative emotions can become intense and make finding a solution difficult.

You need to reframe things. You might not be able to get a fresh perspective on a situation you are currently experiencing. However, journaling or reflecting on things will help you adopt a new perspective later on.

Look for patterns. You might tend to blow your mistakes out of proportions or to overlook positive things. Keep these things in mind when you experience a stressful situation and take the time to consider the issue from different angles.

Positive Thinking

Simple reminders to adopt a positive mindset can go a long way towards helping you manage stress. Spending time with positive people, watching funny movies, or finding home decor that cheers you up can make a difference.

Small things that make you happy can impact your mood and help you get through difficult situations. Motivational sayings and affirmations will help you stay positive.

Remember to be easy on yourself. You can’t be positive all the time, but making a conscious effort to adopt a positive outlook will make a difference.

You could, for instance, take a few minutes to make a list of all the good things that happened during your day.

take care of yourself

Take Care Of Yourself

It is easy to neglect taking care of yourself if you feel overwhelmed by work and other stressors. You need to prioritize a few things such as cooking healthy meals, working out, and getting enough sleep.

Pampering yourself can also make a difference. Don’t feel bad about taking a break so you can focus on yourself.

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Emotion-focused coping strategies will help you deal with difficult situations without letting stressors overwhelm you. The key is to identify your negative feelings, accept them, and find a way to feel better so you can focus on tackling the problem.

About the author

Examined Existence Team