Coping and Stress
Stress is an inevitable aspect of living. In everyday parlance, stress refers to an emotional state of pressure, tension, or distress because of certain demands, actual or imagined, that threaten our psychological or physical well-being. These demands may involve a major transition in life, such as a promotion or divorce, or a traumatic event, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one. They may also involve everyday hassles, such as traffic jam or a toxic work environment.
Generally, coping represents an adaptive response to change or demands in life. Contrary to widespread belief, a life without any stress may not be good for us, because our minds need certain challenge and striving to feel alive, just as our muscles need to do work or exercise to stay healthy. Imagine a life of endless pleasures, free from work and worries. Sooner or later, boredom will set in. A pleasant life without purpose and meaningful engagement may not be much of a life.
A positive way to look at stress is to consider it a friend or someone who challenges us to stretch ourselves and grow. Stress is bad for us (distress) only when it is intense, chronic, and beyond our ability to manage. Stress is good for us (eustress) when we are able to harness it into a source of positive motivation to make creative and constructive changes, resulting in increased well-being for the self and society. This entry provides a history of the evolution of coping with a focus on effective coping and stress.
This encyclopedia entry will published as Wong, P. T. P. (in press). Coping and stress. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of abnormal and clinical psychology. New York, NY: Sage.
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