Sunday, June 16, 2013

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: Coping Strategies (II)

Versión en español

After reading the question that the previous entry raised, some of you may find it hard to pick just one of the suggested answers; perhaps you would opt for one or another depending on the circumstances, type of problem, etc.

Quite so, most authors agree that different strategies can complement each other, alternate or even interfere with each other for the same person at a particular moment, for certain stress sources (injuries, hard redpoint attempt, failures, fear of failure, competition..see this entry, and this one) (Anshel, 1997, 1999; Fornés, 2001; Gould, 1993; González, 2001; Lazarus, 2000; Pensgaard, 1998), or for the particular circumstances (Caruso, 1990).

Regarding the alternatives I put forward for last entry’s question, you probably will develop a clear idea of which strategy each one belongs to as you read this entry.

Starting from the transactional model for stress coping by Lazarus and Folkman (1986), most scholars in this field (Carver et al., 1989; Moos & Billing, 1982; Billings & Moos, 1984; Páez Rovira, 1993) agree that there are at least three big groups of coping strategies:

A) Problem- or task-focused coping
It's aimed to solving the problem or “doing something” to change the environmental events that cause the stress. It tends to be used when there is the perception that the stimulus can be modified. There are these possible strategies according to Carver et al. (1989), Gould et al. (1993), and Park (2000):

- Active Coping, performing direct actions aimed to altering the situation to remove the stressor or minimize its effects. This includes visualization, self-instructions and self-motivation, simulation of the competitive activity, psychological training, promotion of effort and task analysis;
- Planning the strategies for action, seeking the best way for managing stress, developing the Competition Plan, managing and organizing time;
- Seeking instrumental social support from people who can provide us with the information, advice, financial support, etc. necessary to solve the problem.

According to Bifulco & Brown (1996), and Heppner & Petersen (1982), in this group we could as well include:
- Problem solving,
- Cognitive restructuring and
- Self-criticism.

Burton (1989) proposes setting goals for improvement as an effective technique to increase athletes’ performance and reduce anxiety levels.

B) Emotion-focused coping
It tries to reduce or remove the negative feelings caused by the stressing situation. It can be of use when there are external variables that we can’t act upon. Inside this group, Carver et col. (1989) put forward the following:

- Looking for social emotional support to alleviate the effects of the stress (affection, empathy and understanding);
- Suppressing distractors to focus on the stressing event:
- Praying, resorting to religion, superstition/magical thinking, that are passive ways of accepting the situation;
- Reinterpreting positively the event, in terms of opportunities and personal growth;
- Postponing the moment of confrontation; delaying the time of the face-off can be seen also as active coping because there is a behaviour aimed to overcoming the stressor, but it is passive as it implies a lack of immediate action;
- Accepting the problem;
- Self-control;
- Letting off steam, exteriorize the feelings related to the situation that gives rise to those emotions. Carver et col. (1989) suggest that this response can sometimes be functional, but focusing on it for a long time can compromise the adjustment to reality of the individual, and distract them from active coping.

Lazarus and Folkman (1985), also include in this group:
- Fantasy coping,
- Self-blame and
- Self-isolation.

C) Avoidance coping
It means going around the problem by not thinking about it, or relying on the opponent’s errors, or attributing one’s performance to external factors, or distracting oneself with other activities, or reacting aggressively to others (Le Scanff, 1999). Avoidance coping techniques include:

- Negation, in the sense of acting like “nothing happens”. Carver et col. (1989) claim that negating reality can make the event more severe than it already is and make coping more difficult;
- Behavioral disengagement, staying away from the situation. The individual even gives up trying to achieve goals where the stressor is at play;
- Mental disengagement, using alternative distractors to evade the event. Even though disconnecting is sometimes a highly adaptive response, it is often detrimental to coping adequately;
- Substance consumption, and lastly
- Humor as a way of distancing and distracting oneself while playing down the drama of the situation.

Bifulco & Brown (1996), Frydenberg & Lewis (1997) and Vitaliano et al. (1985) add to the avoidance strategies the wishful thinking (wanting the situation to not occur ot to play in a different way).
Frydenberg and Lewis (1997) add self-blame to this set.

Lastly, Covington (1992) still on the topic of avoidance, talks about excuses (self-handicapping behaviors) when the time comes to undergo a physical effort, attributing one’s performance to external and internal factors so to avoid error and protect self-esteem.

As for the most used techniques used in sports, and which of them are more efficient... that will be the topic for the next entry.

Redpoint Anxiety in Climbing: What stresses you out? (I)
Redpoint Anxiety: What stresses you out? (II)
Redpoint Anxiety: Coping Strategies (I)

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