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Approach Coping Responses and How to Deal With Them

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What Is Approach Coping?

Approach coping means having a positive response to stress. Positive responses allow you to de-stress by focusing on the problem. When you learn these cognitive and behavioral techniques to use in real-life situations, it helps you deal with stressors head on instead of avoiding them.

Why Coping with Stress Matters

We all have some degree of stress in our lives. It helps motivate us and keeps us alive and functional. But too much stress can affect your physical and mental health, lead to behavioral issues, and is a risk factor for drug and alcohol misuse and addiction.

Stress is one of the major contributing factors to the failure of addiction treatment. Some experts believe that the combination of stressful life events and poor coping skills has a negative impact on your risk of addiction. Although it isn’t possible to completely eliminate stress from your life, it is important to understand how to manage it.

Approach Coping

What Are Coping Responses and Who Uses Them?

Coping responses are techniques used to address stress. People use them to manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviors during different stages of illness and during treatment. You can use them during recovery to manage stressors that might otherwise trigger a relapse.

There are four different types of approach coping responses. Each of these might work in specific situations or for certain types of people. They are:

  1. Logical Analysis – If you use this method of coping, you try to gain a better understanding of a stressor and evaluate its consequences. For instance, you might brainstorm to think of different ways to manage a situation or take a step back and look at it more objectively. Sometimes taking the approach of an outsider looking at someone else’s situation helps you think of better solutions.

Maybe you easily get angry every time you’re around a sibling at a family event. You can’t avoid them, so you keep getting into arguments every time you’re in the same room. While your normal perspective would be that the person’s behaviors make you angry, look at it from a different perspective. Is there another reason you respond negatively? Is there some jealousy between you that makes you defensive? Have they criticized your choices in the past?

Emotions often get in the way of logic. When you look at situations objectively, do so without the emotions that often cloud your judgment. Understanding why a certain situation or person causes stress, you can come up with better solutions for dealing with the circumstances.

  1. Positive Reappraisal – You might say that this approach allows you to look at the bright side of a situation. Instead of panicking when you have a minor fender bender, you might think of it as a learning experience. It doesn’t mean being unrealistic about the negative side of the situation but with this technique, you can focus your mental energy on the silver lining.

Maybe you bumped into a post in the parking lot and put a small dent in your car. The “silver lining” would be that you didn’t hit another car or person, and no one got hurt. The reality is that you allowed yourself to be distracted by your thoughts long enough to hit a post.  

  1. Seeking Guidance and Support - Most of us have experienced problems during our lifetimes that we didn’t really understand. When you experience unexpected symptoms of an illness or have side effects from a medication, you might look them up online. That’s because not knowing the cause of something is often more frightening than dealing with the reality. You empower yourself with knowledge. Knowing that others have asked the same questions about similar situations makes you feel more like part of a group.

Seeking guidance, information, and support about your behaviors or addiction problems is another way of coping with stress. It might mean discussing your feelings with your friends or family members. It could also include looking for information about why you feel this way and how to deal with it. The more you know about your problem, the better you can deal with it. It also helps to have support and understanding. Besides, the people who love and care for you might respond a lot differently than you think.

Worrying about your problem because you don’t know what to expect from loved ones is a waste of time and energy. Research has proven the point that French writer and philosopher, Michel de Montaigne tried to make when he said that most of what we worry about never happens. In fact, 85% of our imagined misfortunes never come to fruition.

  1. Problem Solving – For some people, dealing with problems head-on is a personality trait. For others, it takes a pro-active approach. Problem solving is a method of approach coping that uses behavioral techniques to deal directly with the problem.

If you use problem solving to cope with stressors, you begin by developing a plan of action. You might want to put it into action as soon as you finish your plan. You can also break it down into multiple smaller steps and deal with things over a longer period of time.

The Alternative to Approach Coping Responses

Avoidance coping responses are the opposite of approach coping. These mechanisms work by having the person focus on something else besides their stressors. They also encourage you to resist emotional responses that you would normally experience with a stressor.

You might use avoidance coping responses either consciously or unconsciously. If you tend to procrastinate about making decisions or solving problems, that’s one example. Ruminating, or hashing negative experiences over and over in your mind is another. People who exhibit passive-aggressive behavior are also using avoidance coping. Any time you try to change your behavior so that you don’t think or have feelings that are uncomfortable, you aren’t dealing with your stressors.

The problem with this approach to coping is that it only makes your stress worse. Initially, it seems like the best approach. Instead of dealing with stressful situations, you turn your attention in a different direction. The reality is that trying to avoid your stressors only exacerbates anxiety.

If you are naturally prone to anxiety, you may have learned avoidance coping techniques early on. If so, taking a positive approach to coping might be more challenging for you. Avoidance might be more of a habit than a coping mechanism. But it’s worth the effort to learn to deal with stressors directly.

Avoidance Coping Is an Unhealthy Practice

Consider procrastinating about something you have to do that makes you feel stressed. Putting off doing it is one thing. Avoiding thinking about it is another thing entirely!

When you worry about doing something, it’s almost impossible to put it out of your mind completely. No matter how many times you push those thoughts out of your mind, they creep right back in again. On the other hand, if you just went ahead and dealt with it at the start, it’s less likely to weigh on your mind. You might even save yourself some stress from trying to hurry and finish once you finally do it.

Avoidance coping can increase anxiety, cause additional problems, and lead to conflict in your relationships. You might even make the choice to end relationships rather than work through issues. The first step toward avoiding using avoidance coping is to understand what it is and why it doesn’t work. Substituting positive approach coping responses will help you deal with stress in an effective way.

People who use approach coping skills typically experience less anxiety and depression than those who implement avoidance coping responses. They also have less substance abuse issues. If you’re going through recovery, dealing with stressors and triggers is one of your primary goals.  

Approach Coping

Why Positive Approach Coping Responses Are Important During Recovery

From the time you go through detox until months or years after recovery, you must work to prevent a relapse. It isn’t enough to rid the addictive substance from your body. You also need to understand your behaviors and learn techniques to prevent going back to using. It’s difficult to stop behaving in a certain way when you don’t know what caused your behavior in the first place.

People who use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate anxiety often have difficulty staying sober. When things happen that cause stress, they go back to the same behavior that they always relied on in the past. That makes rehab the perfect time and place for learning coping strategies.

Learning how to cope with stressors is one of the most valuable tools you will get from a good recovery program. When you learn to use approach coping responses, you no longer feel compelled to turn to substances to help you cope.

Coping with Triggers

Triggers are situations that cause a person in recovery to crave drugs or alcohol and go into relapse. A person’s triggers might be environmental, social, or internal. Coping mechanisms teach you to handle triggers without relapsing. Some of the most common techniques for coping with triggers include:

  • Have a Support System – One of the types of approach coping is “Seeking Guidance and Support.” Talking with friends and family about your problems honestly can help you build a strong support system. Once they understand more about your problem, they can help by holding you accountable and encouraging you to make better choices.
  • Attend Meetings – Recovery doesn’t end once you walk out of the door of the recovery center. Support groups are a good place to share your feelings with others in similar situations. It’s a great way to deal with your emotions head-on.
  • Distract Yourself with Activities You Enjoy– This isn’t the same thing as avoiding your stressors. One of the best ways to improve your emotional and physical well-being is by exercising. You can also learn to do something you’ve always wanted to try or take up a new hobby. Find something positive to indulge in that takes your mind off of getting drunk or high.
  • Remind Yourself of the Potential Consequences - Never forget the negative consequences of your addictive behavior. With Positive Reappraisal, you’re supposed to look for the silver lining without forgetting the negative aspect of what happened. You didn’t have a deadly overdose before. That’s the silver lining. You put your health and life at risk by using irresponsibly. That’s the reality.
  • Know That You Aren't Alone - Remember that you aren’t the only person trying to cope with stressors. Approach coping responses help you deal with problems instead of putting them off. Problem Solving lets you stay in control of your anxiety and helps keep you sober. It’s worked for a lot of people before you. It can work for you, too!

Addiction is a complex illness that affects every part of your body, mind, and life. A successful rehabilitation program helps you understand the causes of addiction and identify the situations that might trigger a relapse in you. You'll also learn coping skills that you can use for the rest of your life.

Every facility doesn’t take the same approach to recovery. Some teach avoidance coping techniques to help you avoid issues that lead to anxiety. Research has proven that approach coping responses are more effective for dealing with anxiety and preventing relapse.

Addiction not only affects you and every aspect of your life. It also affects your family, your co-workers, friends, and the community where you live. The more you include everyone around you in your journey, the more support you will have to help you live a long, relapse-free life.

Why Choose Clean & Sober Recovery

Clean & Sober Recovery provides expert, affordable care that is proven to produce long-term sobriety. Our continuum of care meets your evolving needs as part of a long-term recovery program. The program includes teaching you the valuable coping skills you need to deal with stressors. We also provide ongoing family education and support to help your entire family regain health and balance.

If you or a loved one is struggling with the effects of addiction or abuse of alcohol or drugs, contact Clean & Sober Recovery today. We are here to help you with an intervention or with developing your personal path to recovery.

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