There are times in life when everything seems to be going
well, and it is possible to experience reasonably long periods
of great joy. Change is a fact of life, however, and
satisfaction is rarely permanent. Even if all your physical
needs are met, you live in harmonious relationships, and your
work is meaningful and fulfilling, you still probably experience
some degree of frustration and conflict because you initiate
changes in your life in the pursuit of new and enriching
experiences to satisfy your growth needs.
Coping strategies are ways of dealing with the emotional
distress that comes from not having your needs met. In general,
there are three categories of coping strategies; you can alter
(a) the interaction with the cause of the distress, (b) thoughts
and beliefs regarding the significance of the need that is not
being met, or (c) the distressing feeling, without changing the
situation or how you think about it.
To reduce emotional distress by changing your interaction
with the situation, you could:
- Attack the situation head-on (“I’m anxious about
asking her out, but I’ll go ahead and do it”).
- Avoid the situation (“I’m too nervous about possible
rejection. I’ll do it some other time”).
- Adapt to the situation (“I get nervous every time I ask
someone out, but that’s normal. So what?”).
To change your thoughts and beliefs about the significance of
the unmet need, you could:
- Judge your situation to be less distressing than someone
else’s (“At least I’m meeting people. Poor John works
so much he doesn’t get to meet anyone”).
- See your distress as necessary or temporary (“This is
the way it is,” or “Eventually I’ll find somebody and
I won’t have to go through this anymore”).
- Focus on positive aspects of a situation and minimize the
negative (“If she says yes, I’m sure we’ll have a
- Devalue the goal and believe you will do fine no matter
the outcome (“If he says no, it won’t be the end of the
Reducing emotional distress by changing or reducing the
intensity of the feeling itself could involve releasing
emotional energy through an alternative activity:
- Exercise helps with frustration and anger.
- Meditation helps with sadness and anger.
- Talking to a receptive and empathic person can help with
grief, shame, and anxiety.