A New Survey Identifies The 4 Best (And Worst) Coping Strategies To Deal With The Stress Of The Pandemic

Recent research published in American Psychologist identified five coping strategies that showed promise in staving off the stress of the pandemic. They are:

  1. The ability to make conscious decisions to change my life for the better.
  2. The ability to turn a negative into a positive.
  3. The ability/desire to seek out social support when support is needed.
  4. The ability to find strength in a religious or spiritual practice.
  5. The ability not to allow myself to fight against things that are out of my control.

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at Nixplay, a digital photo frame company, adds further context to this important line of inquiry. Surveying 2000 U.S. adults from August 27th-28th, 2020, the researchers found that people who were able to turn a negative into a positive — or what psychologists refer to as “positive reframing” — were far and away best equipped to handle the stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We were intrigued by the recent data on coping strategies published in American Psychologist and wanted to put the same measures to the test in our survey,” says Mark Palfreeman, CEO of Nixplay. “Interestingly, we found a lot of the same things they did. Notably, our survey suggests that positive reframing is the single most important coping strategy people can use to manage the stress of the pandemic, although other coping strategies such as not allowing oneself to be caught up in things outside of one’s control and seeking comfort through religious or spiritual practices are effective as well.”

To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers asked survey respondents to fill out 14 questions from the Brief COPE inventory, a scale that measures various coping strategies (e.g., acceptance, humor, denial, distraction, substance use, etc.). They also measured how well people were dealing with the stress of the pandemic. Then, they tested which coping strategies were associated with increased psychological resilience during the pandemic.

Below is a ranking of the coping strategies associated with increased psychological resilience (with positive reframing leading the pack):

  1. Turning a negative into a positive, making the best of a situation
  2. Not allowing myself to be caught up in things outside of my control
  3. Seeking comfort through religious or spiritual practices
  4. Concentrating efforts about doing something about the situation to make it better

Not all coping strategies were helpful, however. The researchers found coping strategies such as “Refusing to believe that which is going on is real or happening” (denial) and “Diverting attention to work and other activities to take my mind off things” (distraction) to be unrelated to psychological well-being during the pandemic. They also found the following four coping strategies to be potentially counterproductive in dealing with the stress of the pandemic.

  1. Expressing negative feelings and talking about unpleasant feelings openly
  2. Criticizing or blaming myself for the situation
  3. Giving up trying to deal or cope with the situation
  4. Using alcohol or drugs to make myself feel better and/or get through this time

This research is part of a broader effort by the team at Nixplay to understand how missing special events and milestones due to Covid-19 is affecting people’s psychological well-being and happiness. According to their research, nearly 8 in 10 people report having missed one or more milestones during the quarantine. Not surprisingly, those who have missed out on important events and milestones report higher levels of loneliness than those who have not missed events.

What can be done? Apart from relying on the coping strategies mentioned above, many people are turning to technology as a way to boost their well-being. According to the research, the top ways that technology is supporting connections with loved ones during this time are via phone calls, text messages, social media, and video calls. Furthermore, over half of respondents have sought out an out-of-the-box way to continue connecting with loved ones, such as a virtual Netflix and chill, a socially distanced backyard wine night, or watching a game or movie outdoors on a pull-down screen.

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