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The 3 Coping Strategies for Dealing With Stress: Part 3 of 3

The Serenity Prayer offers great advice on how to deal with the inevitable stress of life. In Parts 1 & 2 we discussed Problem-focused coping and Physical-focused coping. In Part 3 we will look at . . .

Emotion/Spirit-Focused Coping

While making plans or eliciting the Relaxation Response may be helpful for some kinds of stress, there are other kinds of stress that do not respond as well to these. What if the problem is one with no solution? Sooner or later in your life, you will experience the loss of someone significant — a parent, mentor, grandparent, sibling, teacher, etc. Try as you will to cope with this loss, there is no problem that can be solved in this instance. You do not have the power in your life to bring this person back. Physical-focused coping may help some, and should be used, but is not going to solve this problem either. This is a time for Emotion and Spirit-focused coping.

We are emotion-based creatures, more than many of us recognize, and when we are presented with a challenge to our emotions many of us are not prepared to deal with it until it significantly and negatively impacts our health and well-being. Here are some suggestions of ways to deal with our emotions.

·  Reinterpret the event positively. “Now that the person has died, you know they are in a better place, or no longer in pain.”
·  Seek moral support, sympathy, or understanding. This is not the time to be alone. Spend time with friends, family, and others who can be supportive. Professional help from a pastor or counselor might be appropriate.
·  Allow yourself to mourn. Let emotions out. But also recognize that this form of coping has time limits. Improvement in getting your life back in balance can be impeded if you get stuck in the emotions for too long. Experience the emotions, and then move on. If you have difficulty doing this, get professional help.


Many times it is appropriate to use all three styles of coping.

Many times it is appropriate to use all three styles of coping.

Accept when a stressor must be accommodated or cannot be changed. This is the part where you hope to recognize the “Wisdom to know the difference.” There is probably nothing more stressful than trying to improve your stress by using the wrong coping technique. And this truly is a challenge. How do you know which coping skill is the best? Truthfully, this is a trick question. None of them are the best. They are all useful in different life situations. The importance is in knowing which one(s) are useful in your current situation.

Many times it is even appropriate to use all three styles of coping. At an earlier point in my life when I lost my employment due to corporate downsizing, there was nothing I could do to solve that problem. They were not hiring me back! So I started a search for employment. It also caused me physical, emotional, and spiritual stress. So over time, I was able to use all of these coping techniques. Each of them was significant in my ability to deal with my stress.

Sometimes individuals get caught in using just one of the coping styles. If you are a company leader who must regularly solve problems, problem-focused coping will probably serve you well — most of the time. But unless you are used to also using the other styles of coping, eventually you will be blind-sided by an emotional or spiritual crisis and you will be unprepared to deal with it.

Now is the time to begin looking at applying each of the coping styles to various situations in your life. Use the Serenity Prayer as your guide to a less stressful, more healthful life.

Remember to be good to you!

Copyright © 2013 by Gary L. Flegal, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Flegal is a Behavioral Medicine and Health Specialist with a doctorate in “Health Education and Human Performance” from Michigan State University. He is an exciting and accomplished presenter and keynote speaker, presenting seminars for groups and companies on location and at conventions. His advanced training in stress management came to him while working in affiliation with the original Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard under the direction of Herbert Benson, M.D. and his staff. In addition to corporate presentations, Dr. Flegal keeps a busy schedule working with individual clients for a variety of stress-related issues, including anger management, quitting smoking, learning to relax and manage stress, and learning self-hypnosis.

Dr. Flegal’s other passion is magic. He has been a professional magician for over 30 years and continues practicing his art at every opportunity. These two passions work together beautifully as he illustrates stress management concepts with fun, visual, and “magical” demonstrations in his stress management workshops and seminars. It also allows him to share stress management with his magic audiences wherever he goes because “Laughter is the Best Medicine!” Gary is a Reiki Master and a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists.

Dr. Flegal’s specialties include stress management, anger management, positive behavior change, insomnia, smoking cessation, and exercise physiology. For individual appointments, speaking engagements, or more information, contact Gary at Professional Stress Management Services in Nashville, Tennessee, at (615)812-7280 or through his Web site:

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2 thoughts on “The 3 Coping Strategies for Dealing With Stress: Part 3 of 3

  1. Aggree

    Posted by Bo Netterstrøm | May 7, 2013, 9:53 am

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Stress can cause severe health problems if not managed properly. In extreme cases stress can lead to physical symptoms which can even cause death. While stress management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, the information on this website is for guidance only. Readers should seek the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
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