Many of us view coping as the ability to overcome problems in life. However, it may be more helpful to view coping as a process made up of a variety of strategies called into play when facing stressful events.
While it can be tempting to enthusiastically delve into one approach or alternative treatment, women and psychologists specializing in coping mechanisms have found that finding a balance between several techniques offers the most stress relief.
The following are coping mechanisms as identified by Dr. Silverton in the study “Psychological Adjustment and Coping Strategies of Women with Endometriosis.” See The Endometriosis Sourcebook for the full article and chapter on coping.
- Reaffirmation of Healthy Functioning: Placing an emphasis on staying healthy and functional rather than focusing on the fear of becoming dysfunctional. Women displaying this coping skill acted in ways they felt were health promoting, such as eating healthy, exercising, and relying on stress reduction techniques. This strategy helps women build an internal image of being in control.
- Tension release: Some may find the need to “let go” or “vent their emotions.” Having a good cry is an example of this strategy. Tension release is used to let out anger, sadness, and despair.
- Seeking out social support: Seeking out support through groups and from friends, family, doctors, and co-workers.
- Problem-solving: This strategy adopts an active “take charge” attitude toward their own medical care and treatment. These women typically become walking encyclopedias on the illness. They’re also willing to try nontraditional treatments, such as acupuncture, diet, and creative hobbies.
- Reordering of priorities and goals: Taking inventory of priorities and goals, assessing those which may need to shift, including decisions about childbearing, relationships, marriage, or career planning.
- Active participation: Becoming an active participant in one’s healthcare and medical treatments. Women who perceive themselves as more assertive adjust better to medical treatment overall.
- Selective ignoring: Women focused on the positive consequences of having the illness, a strategy characterized by attitudes such as “I have endo, and it’s a big problem, but this crisis brought me closer to my family and/or friends.”
- Optimism: Staying hopeful while at the same time realistic about the disease; displaying a balanced outlook.
- Acceptance: Acknowledging that you are experiencing pain is a positive first step in dealing with it.
- Denial: Some women use this strategy to cope with particular aspects of the disease, such as a threat of recurrence, concerns of chronicity, or infertility. Women using this method are more likely to delay getting medical treatment and tend to deny the chronic nature of the disease.
- Negativism: This strategy focuses on bad consequences and anticipates the worst outcome.
- Avoidance: Women who use this coping strategy try to relieve the pain or anxiety caused by endometriosis by distracting themselves or pushing endo-related stress out of their minds. They participate in activities to escape, such as reading, sleeping, and watching television.
- Withdrawal: Going to or staying in bed, avoiding friends, family, or other women with the illness, is typical of this strategy.
- Passive resignation: Women employing this strategy demonstrate helplessness and passivity. They want to be taken care of by family, friends, and their physicians. In extreme cases, they rely on others to make decisions for them.