Take The Following Quiz:


Take a few minutes to identify the most important problem you have faced during the last year. Then, using the scale below, indicate how often you used each of the following strategies to deal with it.
3 = Fairly Often         2 = Occasionally         1 = A Little         0 = Never

Survey Answer Key:

This survey indicates three basic styles or habits for managing stress:

                                   Section 1 = Avoidance

                                   Section 2 = Problem-Focused

                                   Section 3 = Emotion-Focused

Add each section. The section with the highest score indicates your predominant coping style. As you probably guessed, the avoidance style, is associated with negative outcomes in studies of emotional and physical health.

*Survey adapted from Holahan & Moos (1987)  

How Do You Cope With Stress?

Stress in life is inevitable.  How we handle stress can affect our sense of well-being and adjustment to life’s daily challenges. We all want to experience peace and harmony. Stress management is a basic attempt to fulfill that need. Through faith and transformational living, life challenges can be an opportunity for growth instead of a process that triggers overwhelming stress.

Because every day can be a challenge, we develop habits or behavioral patterns in an attempt to alleviate stress. These habits of managing stress can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Social scientists have studied these patterns for years, because they can significantly affect our emotional and physical health. Our survey above demonstrates three types of stress management: (Section 1) Avoidance, (Section 2) Problem-Focused, and (Section 3) Emotion-Focused. The section you scored the highest indicates your stress management style. Awareness of our behavioral patterns and habits can be the start of developing a better approach to managing stress.

Avoidance and Stress

Individuals who use avoidance patterns manage stress by attempting to keep life challenges from their conscious awareness.  Avoidance coping, therefore, seeks to remove unpleasant feelings and thoughts from daily life.  Some studies demonstrate that individuals who predominantly engage in avoidance-coping strategies tend to lack a sense of control; they are often more pessimistic than optimistic.

Unfortunately, the tendency to avoid situations is repeated until it gradually  becomes an unconscious habit. In this way, “avoiders” tend to experience life challenges with a secret sense of helplessness  (Seligman, 1994).  They gravitate toward activities that promise relief and escape.  When tension or pain is experienced, it triggers a perception that life is unreasonable.  Consequently, avoidance coping has been associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression (Holahan & Moos, 1987).

Problem-Focused Coping

Problem-focused coping involves thoughts and instrumental behaviors that directly manage the underlying cause of stress. Managing stress actively and assertively targets stressful situations in attempts to reach resolutions.  Spiritually, it involves seeking the opportunity to persevere in all situations.

Studies show that people using a “problem-focused” approach have a sense that their actions make a difference in any given circumstance.  It’s like having a sense of control (vs. a sense of being out of control).  A problem-focused approach to stress management is associated with lower levels of anxiety, higher levels of confidence, and an overall emotional flexibility in the face of life challenges (Holahan & Moos, 1987).  

God’s word in the book of Philippians points to a vital spiritual component of developing a problem-focused style of stress management.  

This passage directs us to develop a praiseful attitude regardless of our present circumstances. In the face of any challenge, we are led to act by praying and asking God for help.  As we do this, our outlook improves regardless of the situation (no matter how negative). Optimism and confidence comes from trusting that God is with us in our daily struggles. The Lord is near, and He is always in control.   The result of this faith focus is a “guarding” of our hearts and minds.  With this problem-focused action, we can become spiritually resistant to stress as we turn to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving.

Emotional-Focused Coping

Emotional-focused coping is a style of stress management that relies on maintaining a state of mind  that will promote positive emotions. Emotional-focused coping tends to place an emphasis on managing our thought life, with the payoff of emotional balance.  Consequently, negative emotions that typically would be brought about in more stressful situations are reduced.

Emotional-focused coping strategies are needed because challenges frequently arise in life that are long-term. These strategies allow us the psychological capacity to face long-term stress. Emotion-focused coping promotes emotional endurance that is needed when problem resolution cannot immediately be reached.

Philippians 4:8 points us to a spiritual key to building this type of emotional “reservoir”:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

What we choose to dwell on influences our emotional capacity in all circumstances.  When this spiritual focus is developed, the way we perceive (even in the most negative circumstances), allows us to remain hopeful and emotionally balanced.  What we choose to put into our minds, becomes part of the emotion-focused coping style.

Individuals who are building coping with stress in this way frequently examine the type of information entering their minds. Conversations, media, books and anything in the environment support or detract from an optimistic focus. The spiritual root of this optimism rests on faith.  However, it also involves an active lifestyle that promotes exposure to what is good and pure. Therefore, activities like prayer, meditation on God’s word, staying physically healthy, and regular involvement in a positive Christian faith community become important elements of the emotional-focused coping style.

From the survey above, we hope that you can get a quick sense of your stress-management style.  Problem and Emotion-focused habits build resistance to common emotional problems like depression, anxiety and addictive behaviors. Avoidant styles of coping are a sign that you are prone to stress induced emotional and physical health problems.  

If you concerned about your habit of stress management, the good news is that change is possible!  With the proper support, anyone can develop a new habit of stress management.

Developing a new approach to managing stress can begin today!  At Christian Counseling Associates, we provide an excellent stress management program which includes assessments and tools that will help you build a new approach to life challenges.  This program is very helpful for those seeking to improve emotional balance, leaders in high-stress situations, or organizational groups seeking to create a more positive environment.  Ready to transform your approach to managing stress?  Call us at 724-396-1510 and begin the journey today!


Holahan, C., & Moos, R. (1987). Personal and contextual determinants of coping strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 946–955.

Life Application Bible, New American Standard Bible (2007)  Philippians 4:4 – 8.  Illinois, Tyndale Publishers.

Seligman, M. E. (1994). What you can change and what you can’t. New York: Knopf.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email