Adaptive Coping Strategies: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are Adaptive…
  • 1:07 Adaptive vs.…
  • 2:44 Some More Examples
  • 3:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

In this lesson, we will discuss adaptive coping strategies. Learn about adaptive coping strategies from examples. Then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Are Adaptive Coping Strategies?

Mary is a mother of three boys, ages two, five, and nine. Mary also owns her own flower shop. During the spring and summer months, Mary's company gets a lot of business. In the past few weeks, Mary has been in charge of floral arrangements for at least one wedding each week. She's also needs to get her children to their sports practices, make them lunch, and manage the family finances.

This has become stressful for Mary, especially since she gets less than 4 hours of sleep each night. After almost falling asleep while driving, Mary decides that she needs to make some changes. Mary takes two days off work and her husband takes the children to visit his parents so that Mary can catch up on sleep. A few days later, Mary hires an assistant to help her with her work duties, gets her husband to take over finances, and joins a carpool to help get her children to their practices and games. In this example, Mary has used adaptive coping strategies.

Adaptive vs. Maladaptive Coping

We all deal with stress in different ways. Some of the ways that we deal with stress are healthy, such as exercising or, like in Mary's case, sleeping. Other ways are unhealthy, such as using drugs to get rid of the stress. Adaptive coping strategies improve our level of functioning. Adaptive coping strategies are the healthy way of dealing with stress. They also deal directly with the root problem, which decreases the actual level of stress.

For example, Mary's stress stemmed from her not getting enough sleep and having too many responsibilities to do each day. She coped by sleeping, which directly took care of her lack of sleep, and by planning, which allowed her to develop a strategy of how she would delegate her responsibilities to make them more manageable. Both sleep and planning are examples of adaptive coping strategies.

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