Noting that people can use different coping strategies, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) distinguished two general types. The first is problem-focused coping, which refers to cognitive and behavioral efforts to reduce stress by overcoming the source of the problem. Trouble in school? Study harder, hire a tutor, or reduce your workload. Marriage on the rocks? Talk it out or see a counselor. Problem finding work? Look for an internship, expand your search, or try a new location.
A second approach is emotion-focused coping, which consists of efforts to manage our emotional reactions to stressors rather than trying to change the stressors themselves. If you struggle at school, at work, or in a relationship, you can keep a stiff upper lip, accept what is happening, tune out, or vent your emotions. According to Lazarus and Folkman, we tend to take an active, problem-focused approach when we think we can overcome a stressor but fall back on an emotion-focused approach when we perceive the problem to be out of our control.