Not every problem can be solved by direct action or thinking your way through it. Either due to outside circumstances, lack of resources, or lack of knowledge, sometimes you just have to “deal with it”. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate unfortunate circumstances or tough times by regulating your emotions with coping skills. Yet even for those who are in tune with their emotional reactions, emotion-focused coping can be difficult to practice, let alone master. Let’s look at eight emotion-focused coping tips you can practice daily.
What Is Emotion-Focused Coping?
There are two main types of coping with a stressful event, like the loss of a loved one or other life events. Emotion-focused coping is one way of handling difficult situations or circumstances. As its name suggests, it focuses on regulating your feelings and potential emotional responses to problems. You do this instead of addressing or trying to solve the problem plaguing you itself.
Emotion-focused coping strategies stand in contrast to problem-focused coping. Problem-focused coping means you handle stressful situations by facing the stressors head-on and trying to resolve them in any way possible. It doesn’t focus as much on social support or emotional well-being, tying your mental health entirely to outside factors. Problem-focused coping strategies can be beneficial, but they’re not one-size-fits-all solutions. Furthermore, this kind of problem-solving is not always possible. Say that you are facing severe financial strain but can’t quit your job and look for a new one just yet. This way of coping won’t help you in this situation.
Emotion-focused coping, on the other hand, might. With emotion-focused coping, you learn to handle how you emotionally respond to issues, freeing your mind to focus on making the best of limited resources and other benefits.
How Can I Practice Emotion-Focused Coping?
The emotion-focused coping response can be an advantageous mindset and strategy in many circumstances, including during relationship troubles, when you have to do something you don’t like (especially repeatedly), and more.
Yet emotion-focused coping is very difficult to perform, especially if you don’t have much experience regulating your feelings. Here are eight emotion-focused coping tips to keep in mind.
1. Meditate Each Day
Firstly, try to meditate every day. Meditation is a complex art, but it’s well worth it if you can learn to do it consistently. Through meditation, you allow your mind to relax, either while sitting still or while performing another relaxing physical activity like yoga. Meditation can help alleviate stress, calm your mind, and marshal your thoughts to solve a difficult problem. More importantly, meditation allows you to control your emotions by examining them from a detached state of mind.
- Through meditation, you’ll be able to better:
- Understand your emotions
- Know why you feel certain emotions
- Decide whether or not to allow certain emotions to rule over your decisions and thoughts
The last element is the most important. All emotions are powerful, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether those emotions will affect what you do, how you act, and what you say to other people. The emotional approach or coping style is more adaptive and ideal for holistic health care.
2. Try Journaling
Journaling is another great way to practice emotion-focused strategies. When you journal, you give yourself a healthy outlet to write down your thoughts, feelings, fears, anxieties, and hopes. It’s a form of emotional venting that leaves you feeling refreshed and stable afterward. Try to journal every day, or at the very least, when you feel intense emotion. This will help you recognize your emotions and allow you to express yourself safely and healthily without affecting those around you.
3. Engage in Daily Exercise
Similarly, you should try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day. Exercise is not directly related to your emotions, of course. But it does have an outsized impact on your mental and physical health. Plus, exercising each day helps you burn away stress hormones and relax. If you exercise frequently, you’ll find yourself less stressed overall.
You can furthermore consciously use exercise as an emotion-focused coping tool. Say that you experience a lot of stress or anger because of an insult you received from a friend or family member. Rather than insulting them back, you can practice a smart emotion-focused coping technique by going on a run. Running benefits your body and mind and gives you time to cool off. More importantly, you consciously choose to harness your emotions and pull them back from the brink of exploding instead of allowing yourself to go off on the person who insulted you.
4. Practice Positive Thinking
The power of positive thinking should never be underestimated. Training yourself to think positively about negative situations – and to think positively about yourself – can do wonders for your self-esteem and self-confidence and prevent you from spiraling into deeper negative emotions whenever something bad occurs. However, practicing positive thinking and harnessing your positive emotions takes a lot of effort. To that end, consider speaking positively to yourself in front of the mirror every night before bed. It’s a little cheesy, but it is effective, and it’s something you can easily fit into your daily routine without much disruption.
5. Practice Reframing
You may also attempt to practice a reframing strategy. Cognitive reframing focuses on shifting how you look at a problem. It’s not just “seeing the silver lining” or being optimistic. It means trying to look at a problematic situation objectively and consciously choosing to look at it in an advantageous manner.
Say that you have to do a difficult job at work or give up one of your days off to cover a shift for a coworker. Rather than feeling bad about your lost free time, you could reframe your thoughts to focus on the positives of the situation, like:
- You have an opportunity to impress your boss, which may lead to a raise in the future
- You get to spend time with your coworkers, allowing opportunities to build important work relationships
- You can improve your work-related skills, making you a more attractive hire in the future
Reframing is beneficial primarily because it arrests the negative feelings that can destroy productivity and make you feel worse about an already bad situation.
6. Always Talk it Out
If you have a problem with another person or you enter into an argument, always talk it out rather than walking away or using physical expressions to display your anger. Talking issues out is important for communication and validation.
Talking out your problems is also effective coping if you have an issue you can’t solve. Find a friend or family member (or a spouse) and talk about your day and your fears and anxieties. You may find that simply talking about your problems makes you feel much better about them, equipping you with the wisdom and clarity needed to solve things later in the process.
7. Learn About Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions are troublesome or pesky thought patterns that repeatedly crop up to distort how we perceive or experience an event. Say that you are passed over for a promotion at work. One cognitive distortion may cause you to feel that your boss has deliberately slighted you as an insult. In reality, your boss may have been planning the promotion for someone else for some time and is planning a promotion for you soon. You can practice emotion-focused coping by learning about your cognitive distortions and interrupting how they affect your thoughts.
In the event of a tragedy or negative emotion, remember to watch for your cognitive distortions, which may inadvertently change how you experience a situation. It’s not uncommon for people in the throes of negative emotions to have completely different perceptions compared to those who aren’t quite as affected by the issue at hand.
8. Learn To Forgive
Lastly, forgiveness is an important part of emotion-focused coping. Learning to forgive others for their slights (both perceived and real) is critical if you are to become an emotionally healthy person. If someone does something wrong to you, it’s okay to feel grief, anger, or another negative emotion. But if you learn to forgive them quickly, you’ll experience less emotional stress and be able to go about the rest of your day much more readily.
This isn’t to say you should let people walk all over you, of course. But learning to forgive is a cornerstone of emotion-focused coping since it moves you past the negative stages associated with receiving a slight.
Ultimately, understanding how to handle and manage your emotions is key to long-term emotional health and mental wellness. Plus, practicing the above emotion-focused coping tips could help you weather any upcoming emotional storms or hardships in your future.
Combine emotion-focused coping with other wellness techniques – such as meditation, healthy recipes, and more – and you can get 1% better each and every day. Let 1AND1 help you on your journey by contacting us or checking out our many resources.