ACA Blog

Michael Walters
Jun 20, 2011

Stress Versus Coping Skills

As counselors, we know that stress is a process—an interaction between the person and the environment. Often times as counselors, we formulate intervention strategies which will be implemented to help a person develop or strengthen coping skills in order to manage and cope with stressors. With summer stressors (such as summer schedules with kids, changes in employment, new activities, new roles, new expenses, and dangerous weather) coming upon us, the aim of this blog entry is to provide a useful definition of stress and to reinforce the notion of using all aspects of a person’s resources as way of counterbalancing stress.

Let’s examine a quick definition of stress. Stress can be defined as a situation that emerges in a person when life’s challenges and pressures exceed a person’s perceived ability to cope. First, the situation emerges in a person: that is a physical, affective, cognitive, and social phenomenon. In other words, stress is a whole body response. Every part of a person—body, mind, spirit, and relationships—can be impacted by the challenges of daily life. Knowing this, the good news is that each aspect of a person can be used as a resource for managing the challenges. The second half of the definition of stress refers to the importance of a person’s perceived ability to cope. Frequently, a person possesses the skills to cope with stress but perceives incorrectly.

Now, let’s look at a sequence of events of the stress response. First, stress begins with a threat. For example, the threat may be a random event, like a dog running into the road in front of your car, or it may be a thought, like remembering you won’t have enough money to pay your mortgage on time. Or it may be an imagined threat, like thinking something bad will happen this summer. Once you have evaluated the seriousness of the threat, the next step in the stress response is to evaluate your capability to handle it. This involves how much, if any, control you have over the situation, and your feelings about it, and how confident you are that you can respond capably to what has happened (or will happen). The bottom line is this: How a person assesses (perceives) a threat (real or imagined) determines how your body, mind, and spirit will respond. Consequently, a person can strive to manage stress in his/her life by developing and strengthening coping skills that use a person’s cognitive, affective, behavioral, physical, social, and spiritual resources.

In closing, the key to managing stress involves creating coping skills or strategies that are unique to all aspects of a person’s resources. Here are six coping strategies that can be personalized according to a person’s cognitive, affective, behavioral physical, social and spiritual resources.

1.Not always, but at times choose to avoid situations that create stress for you.
2.Choose to do things that create peace for you.
3.Change how you respond to a stressor; problem solve.
4.Change how you think about a stressor; reframe; dispute irrational belief.
5.Every day, do some physical activity, get adequate sleep, and eat nutritious foods.
6.With family or a friend, express feelings about the good and the bad of the day. Pray.



Michael Walters is a high school counselor and a licensed professional counselor. He has a special interest in strengthening family relationships and empowering individuals to reach their goals.


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