There are several different methods for dealing with stress; some focus on the stress itself while others focus on the root cause of the stress. The mentality is that if you eliminate what is causing the stress, you will, by default, remove the stress itself.
This method of stress reduction is called problem-focused coping.
In this article, we will look at problem-focused coping and how to use it. We will also evaluate when it is best to use it as well as when it may not be the first or most helpful technique.
By the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of what problem-focused coping is all about and how it can help you reduce the stress causing problems in your day to day life.
- C. R. Snyder
- Oxford University Press
- Kindle Edition
Problem-Focused Coping Defined
There are a couple of different ways to accurately define problem-focused coping.
The dictionary definition states that it is a coping mechanism that primarily concentrates on changing or making a modification to the root problem causing stress or discomfort.
In normal human speak, though, the definition is stated as identifying the underlying cause of your stress or issues. And working to eliminate the cause, instead of focusing on the stress itself.
No matter how you choose to define it, problem-focused coping targets the cause of the stress instead of the stress itself.
The understanding is that by reducing or eliminating the stress causing agent. Then the stress itself will be reduced or eliminated.
The main questions arise when contemplating this method are things like: is this the best method, and if not, when should I use it and when should I avoid it? Or, what happens if I can’t identify the root cause?
We will look at these questions and more to give you a better understanding of when and how to use problem-focused methods to reduce your stress.
Is This The Best Method?
Not everyone will agree what is best or what works when something else doesn’t. If you find a stress relieving method that works well for you, great! Stick with it and continue to use it.
However, if you find that the same stress continues to come back time and again.
Then you may want to consider a new option. The problem focused coping method works by eliminating the cause of the stress (or at a minimum reducing its impact on you) which, many agree, is the best method.
Many consider this method the best because it provides a long-term solution rather than a quick relief that reoccurs later on.
Some, however, think that because the method takes longer, the stress lingers more and can cause more problems.
The final choice is up to you, and what works for you is what you should use. If you are unsure, you should talk to a doctor, a medical professional or even seek out the help of a therapist that specializes in stress reduction.
When To Use This Method
When should you try to use this method? The answer isn’t all that simple. On the surface, the answer is simply: When you can identify the source of the stress, or cause, and being able to eliminate it will reduce your stress levels.
However, this isn’t always so easy to accomplish.
If you do not know the root cause of your stress, you need to really concentrate on the issues you are facing and try and figure it out.
This can be accomplished through many different ways. You can talk to someone that will be supportive and listen if talking aloud is something that helps you make decisions.
You can also internalize the situations, using a notepad and a pen or a computer document sheet to begin listing possible causes.
There is no limit except for knowing your own way of identifying issues and your creativity.
The problem focused method is only suitable if you can identify the cause and you feel you have the ability to take control of it. Common stress issues that this method works for are:
- An upcoming exam.
- A job interview.
- Ridding your home of a pest infestation.
- Losing a job.
- Caring for the terminally ill (especially a family member).
- Public speaking.
As you can see, the stress causing issues are something that can be controlled on a personal and individual level. As long as you have the ability to take control, the problem focused methods will work for you.
When Not To Use This Method
Just as there are things we can control, there are things we cannot control. Some of these issues that seem to be out of our own hands, or ones where the root cause is beyond our immediate control, do not work so well with this method.
To get the most from the problem focused method of stress control. Then you need to feel some sort of power over the situation.
Optimistic people, for example, will have a better success rate than pessimistic people because they already see the issue as something that can be handled.
There are stress factors that do not work so well with this method. Things outside the realm of our individual control will have the least reaction to this method. These types of stresses include:
- Mourning the loss of a loved one.
- Ending a relationship.
- Coping with emotional abuse.
- New hires at work that you don’t get along with.
Because some root causes of stress are emotionally based, you will need to use an emotional coping method. If you are pessimistic about the cause or situation, you will also feel that it is beyond your control and may have more success with an emotion-based management system.
How To Use This Method
It may sound straightforward, however, in practice the problem focused method is tedious, drawn out and can become overwhelming. It is important to know how to begin and see the issues through to the end.
In general, the first step is to identify the base cause of the stress.
We talked about this earlier. Once you have identified the problem, that is where your focus needs to head. Instead of thinking or acting on the outcome, or the situations the root problem causes. Then we look at the problem itself.
For example, if the root cause of your stress is due to the fact that you have to take a test on Friday that you are not prepared for.
Or perhaps the test is so important it can mean losing your degree or failing the class. Then the exam is where you should focus.
You need to figure out how to take control of that situation.
Can you study more? Perhaps there isn’t enough time. In each situation, there will be a roadblock and an answer. The roadblock is nothing more than another issue created by the root cause.
The goal is to avoid these roadblocks.
You shouldn’t focus on them and instead work your way around them.
If you don’t have enough time to study more. Like in our example, there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t go back in time, so we don’t stop and worry about the time-based situations.
Instead, focus on what you can do.
You can go over your notes, you can talk to a classmate about the exam. Or you can understand that the time for studying is passed. And you have to take the exam with your memory and recall skills alone.
The important thing is to understand that the exam isn’t going to go away.
You will have to face it and stressing about it isn’t going to solve that. You take control of what you can and show up and take the exam.
Pass or fail there will be other options, other situations and other chances.
Allowing something you can control to cause you stress which can lead to physical symptoms is something you should avoid. The problem focused coping method allows you to do just that.
By identifying the stress causing problem, you can then take control. The control may be limited. Or it may be complete. The fact is you can take some control over the stress. And therefore reduce the amount and effects it has on you.
In Conclusion Problem Focused Coping
Problem-focused coping is a method of stress relief that relies on you being able to identify the cause of the stress. Instead of focusing on the stress itself.
By doing so, you avoid the pitfall of relieving the stress itself only to have it return. Instead, you reduce or eliminate the root cause, which in turn has a more permanent reduction of the stress levels.
While not every stress causing root problem can be handled in this manner.
It is chiefly a coping mechanism that works when you can take control over the problem and handle it in some form or fashion for or by yourself.