The decision to accept and carry on turns the worst failure into success.
Claire Weekes (Australian doctor and health writer)
Coping is defined as an attempt to overcome or come to terms with difficulties or occurred losses. We will focus here mainly on coping strategies, but let’s have a look at stress and distress first.
Stress and distress
Two broad groups of situations require coping: losing situations that cause stress (e.g. running late for work), and situations in which a loss has already occurred, that cause distress (e.g. losing your job for being late). Stress relates to setbacks, distress to loss. Distress typically has a more profound effect because a loss cannot be prevented any more, but stress is far more common.
What triggers stress
Stress is usually instigated by your perception of a discrepancy between demands on you and your ability to deal with them. In other words, stress arises when there is a conflict between what you want or would like and what is actually happening. This means, for example, that you don’t get stressed when you are in a hurry but when you have to force yourself to stop despite being in a hurry. Such situations are common in modern society (waiting for a bus or lift, queuing, traffic jams, crowds, etc.). So, taking into account that something may go wrong, stop you or slow you down can go a long way – although it cannot eradicate stress completely, as things are not always predictable. Accumulated stress can affect our body (e.g. the immune and cardio-vascular systems), mind (e.g. the sleep, concentration), as well as relationships. Sometimes we use food, alcohol or drugs to deal with stress and distress, but the trouble is that they make us feel even worse after their effect is gone. Prescribed medication can be useful in providing a respite so that we can gather energy to deal with the situation, but they do not provide answers, they are not a solution. This is why we need coping strategies (to deal with both stress and distress).