What Is Emotion Focused Coping? Best Ways To Cope With Distress

Dealing with stress can be a difficult challenge for many people. Stress management is an important way to alleviate negative emotions.

This, in turn, can help you gain a greater sense of control in life.

There are two main coping strategies: emotion focused coping and problem focused coping strategies. Each of these focused strategies aims to provide stress management in different ways.

Problem-focused coping focuses on reducing or removing stress from work, home, or other factors by reducing the source of those perceived stress. It directly aims to minimize a potentially emotion eliciting situation which may fuel feelings of anxiety, depression, distress, and related effects of stress by deconstructing them and reducing their impact through a variety of different techniques.

Emotion focused coping strategies zero in on improving the way stress is handled by reducing our emotional reactions to difficult situations. This process involves regulating our emotions, which enables us to react less to stressors in life.

While suppressing emotions never help in problem solving, emotion-focused coping strategies decrease our level of anger, sadness, distress, and fear while also allowing us to take greater control of our lives and feelings.

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Choosing Emotion Focused Strategies VS. Problem Focused Coping Approach

Many people feel that problem focused coping strategies are often the best way to resolve feelings of stress.

While some problem solving mechanisms work really well and are effective, they are often limited in achieving long-term improvements in your level of stress.

As one problem is resolved or reduced, another situation may arise to cause an equal or greater amount of distress, which continues to have the same negative outcomes on your physical and mental health.

Often, situations in life cannot be significantly changed, such as strained family relationships, work-related stress, and other challenges that may improve slightly over time but unfortunately cannot be resolved entirely. 

Emotion-focused coping techniques offer a way to handle ongoing situations that trigger emotional distress, but that cannot be changed through simply adjusting your negative emotional reactions.

Emotion-focused coping enables you to reduce the impact of those stressors on you personally and on your mental well-being.

emotion-focused coping

The Benefits of Emotion Focused Coping and Stress Management

There are proactive ways to manage emotional distress. Finding strategies that work for you will help you significantly, even if the stressors within your life cannot be eliminated entirely or are only slightly reduced.

For many people, avoidance is often their first reaction to a difficult issue, although doing so often prolongs facing the situation. It’s important to accept what must be confronted while you decide to pursue a different approach to address your stress and help you deal with it now and in the long term. 

Emotion focused coping skills provide you with an opportunity to stay focused and think more clearly about a situation instead of viewing it as an impossible obstacle that you will never be able to overcome.

For example, a major project at work may become a severe stressor for you when all the job’s challenging factors are combined. The project becomes less overwhelming and emotional for you by deconstructing the project and assessing each section or step individually.

Emotional approach coping mechanisms allow for personal reflection and will enable you to address issues more effectively.

It provides you the advantage of using psychological resources and research to employ a strategy that will work for you while remaining calm and reducing any challenging emotions you may be having in the process. 

Strategies for Coping with Distress

There are helpful ways and strategies for you to cope with stress using emotion-focused techniques. Often, stress results from our perception of a scenario, which creates a heightened sense of urgency and negativity, and eventually affecting our mental health.

In these types of situations, problem focused strategies only work effectively once the stressors are viewed through a realistic lens instead of dwelling on the issue and internally inflating its importance.

1. Cognitive Reframing

Cognitive reframing provides an opportunity for us to assess the situation or issues through a new perspective. Instead of ignoring or avoiding the problem, we can discuss the stressors within our life and look at them more productively.

Therapy is a great way to delve into how stressors can be dismantled and reframed into more straightforward matters that we can then address, rather than trying to tackle a mountain of impossible problems at once.

An affordable and convenient option to find a suitable therapist is online where you can speak with a therapist from the comfort of your own home.

2. The Benefits of Meditation

Practicing meditation provides benefits to your personal and professional life.

Meditation offers the ability to separate individual thoughts about stress, including our attached emotions and feelings, and allow more thoughtful, productive coping responses instead of reacting with fear or another negative emotion.

There are many positive physical benefits that we can receive from meditation, which allows our body to destress and alleviate some of those symptoms that are often associated with anxiety and depression.

It’s a great way to relax while also allowing your mind to search for answers and solutions to situations with a clear, more concise level of understanding.

3. Keeping a Journal

Writing about stressors and life experiences can offer a powerful way for you to assess and react to potentially emotion eliciting situations and complicated matters while also finding a solution in the process.

It allows you to take a more proactive approach by limiting your emotional responses and developing practical methods for improvements instead.

Keeping a journal is a powerful way to manage stress and prevent emotions from interfering with practical solutions. It also allows your mind to divide a seemingly complex matter into relevant categories, which makes it easier for you to handle and conquer, reducing stress overall.

Journaling is a helpful strategy to manage the psychological effects on a person while reducing negative emotions and stress in life.

emotion focused coping

4. Practice Positive Thinking and Forgiveness

It can be a challenge to think positively when everything around you seems to be overwhelming.

Despite lots of stressors in life, there are always moments that you can cherish and reasons to feel grateful. Focusing on the positives in life can lead to a better, clearer way of thinking and reflecting on life in general because it quickly puts things into perspective.

Being optimistic or positive thinking can help nurture positive emotions.

Sometimes, it is hard to accept an unfair situation where you feel like you are at a disadvantage. These types of experiences can make you feel angry and hurt, resulting in a desire to be unkind and potentially lash out.

It’s important to recognize that feeling hurt is a normal reaction to injustice, and sometimes, it’s easy to be hard on yourself during these situations.

Practicing forgiveness towards people who react this way towards you and also avoiding self blame can also help reduce stress. Show yourself some love by forgiving yourself.

When we choose to forgive, we better understand other people’s situations, and we ourselves experience improved compassion and empathy.

Letting go of hurt or pain can improve your relationships at home and work while also better-addressing stress within your life. Clear communication is pivotal to addressing unresolved issues and will enable you to resolve matters amicably.

It is important to note that if someone has hurt you, you can forgive them and still implement boundaries so that they do not have free reign in your life. Choosing to forgive someone and move on with your life simply ensures that you are not living a life controlled by your past trauma. 

Emotion-Focused Coping Strategy Examples

Here are some examples of emotion-focused coping strategies:

  • Your scholarship application to an international school is sadly rejected. Instead of allowing the stress of not getting in, you reframe your thinking. You take some time to consider your options. The school you applied to is not the only school that you can go to. Instead, you decide to apply for a variety of other international schools that will still fulfill that dream of living overseas.

  • You were one of the employees put forward for a promotion and was sure you would get the job. However, you were unfortunately not chosen. Instead of overthinking what could have been and getting upset about missing the promotion, you decide to reflect on what you can improve on and even decide to look at other job opportunities to see what may be out there for you.

  • You always dreamt of having your own house by the age of 25. However, you are now 32 and still renting an apartment. Instead of getting upset or down on yourself, you choose to journal and redefine what dreams you have and revisit your expectations.

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It is inevitable to experience a stressful event in this lifetime. The painful emotions that often come with such life events may be initially challenging to handle and can negative effects on your relationships.

However, by employing various emotion focused coping options, there is a lot of room for personal growth, improvement, and dealing with challenging situations on a more realistic and proactive level.

The most important aspect of using coping strategies is making sure that we view situations in our daily life from different perspectives and choose to focus on possible solutions that are proactive and positive.

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