Two of the ways to cope with stress are to engage or disengage. “Engagement coping aims to handle the stressor or emotions involved, whereas disengagement coping attempts to escape the stressor or emotions associated with it,” said Tuija Muhonen of the Centre for Work Life Studies at Malmo University in Sweden. “Engagement coping then includes both problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies, e.g. support seeking, acceptance and cognitive restructuring, whereas disengagement coping is focused on emotions with the aim of escaping feelings of distress, and includes strategies such as avoidance and denial.” Muhonen and Eva Torkelson of the Department of Psychology at Lund University, conducted a study on 136 Swedish municipal employees to determine which coping strategies were most effective. In addition to coping style, optimism has been shown to directly influence one’s ability to cope with stress. “People who are optimists have a propensity to use more problem-focused coping strategies, whereas pessimists are more prone to using denial or behavioral disengagement,” added Muhonen.
For their study, the team assessed how the participants coped under stress using the Brief COPE scale, which measures 14 specific techniques for handling stressful situations. They also evaluated all of the participants for optimism, psychological and physical well-being. They found that there was a direct link between coping strategy and well-being. “Active coping, emotional support, instrumental support, positive reframing, planning, humor and acceptance were correlated to better psychological well-being,” said the team. “Higher optimism was significantly related to active coping, emotional support, instrumental support, positive reframing and planning, whereas denial, behavioral disengagement and self- blame were related to lower optimism.” They added, “Only two of the coping strategies, namely denial and acceptance, acted as predictors of physical well-being. Denial was related to poorer physical well-being, whereas acceptance was related to better physical well-being.” The researchers believe their results have significant clinical implications and could have benefit workplace environments. They added, “Considering the high rate of stress in current working life, it is important to investigate further the effectiveness of disengagement and engagement coping in order to be able to strengthen coping capacity among employees.”
Muhonen, Tuija, and Eva Torkelson. “Exploring Coping Effectiveness and Optimism among Municipal Employees.” Psychology 2.6 (2011): 584-589. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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