Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Optimism and coping

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Optimism and coping:
How are optimism and coping related?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Remaining optimistic and coping through different situations and having a positive outlook on life and future events.

Like the quote suggests, one should strive to be optimistic even under the most trying circumstances!

Have you ever experienced a time or have possibly been in a situation where in which you remained optimistic or have used optimism as a coping strategy to get you through a situation or task? Many people at some point have had to use either one or both to either get them through a situation or complete a task for work or school. This chapter explores the relationship between optimism and coping and how they are related, does one affect the other or are they independent from one another, what are the theories behind optimism and coping, what do they tell us about optimism and coping, and whether gender plays a key role in levels of optimism and coping. This chapter also looks at the role of optimism and coping on mental health and well-being and how that may influence or affect an individual. As a case study, this chapter discusses the effects of COVID-19 and how that has affected or influenced people's levels of optimism and coping during the pandemic.

Focus questions:

  • How are optimism and coping related?
  • How does it influence well-being and mental health?
  • How has COVID-19 influenced people’s optimism and coping strategies?

What is optimism? What is coping?[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Adapting to a new way of life and taking a different approach to still enjoying simple life pleasures.

Optimism can be defined as a personality trait an individual possess to view life and future events through a positive lens rather than finding fault and viewing life from a negative lens (Fasano et al., 2020). Coping has been defined as thoughts and behaviors that an individual may use to aid in the management of life demands and stressors (Fasano et al., 2020).

Theory about optimism and coping[edit | edit source]

When encountering stressful situations or difficult times many individuals find coping or strategies for coping quite difficult to achieve and in turn find themselves hopeless, lacking motivation and in some cases some may find themselves to be in distress over the situation they are currently in (Prati & Pietrantoni, 2009). Stress and coping theory proposed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984), coined coping as a phenomenon, where both an individual's cognitive and behavioural responses are used, in an attempt to aid them in managing external and/or internal stressors stimuli, that may be perceived to exceed their personal experiences (Naughton, 1997). Stress can be experienced in different ways and within different age groups (Cabras & Mondo, 2018), many people's response to stress may differ depending on the situation they are in, and their methods of coping styles they may choose to employ can also differ (Cruz et al., 2018).

Figure 3. Different types of motivation and what that involves. What motivates people to continue or peruse their dreams and goals.

Cognitive perspective[edit | edit source]

The cognitive approach in Lazarus and Folkman's theory, consists of mental processes that a person uses when evaluating a situation (Naughton, 1997), the level of evaluation taken may decide the level of stress someone may face and the individual's coping strategy used in that situation (Naughton, 1997). Two types of appraisals can be taken to aid in coping through/with situations,

Primary appraisal: this approach is taken when a conscious assessment of the situation at hand is made, and whether it possess as either, a risk, a harm, a threat or a challenge.

Secondary appraisal: this approach takes place when a person asks themselves "Can I do something?" by assessing the available coping resources surrounding that individual. These resources can range from, physical, such as health, levels of energy a person possesses, social resources, which could include family and friends, as he/she must depend on as a support system for one's immediate neighboring surroundings, psychological resources, this includes a person's self-esteem and their self-efficacy, finally, material resources which include, amount of money one has to survive and the type of equipment one has that might be of use to that individual.

Cognitive functions that may be used to aid in coping in any type of situation may be, changing you perception or outlook on the current situation you are in, "this is not going to last forever" or "this will be over soon" are some ways one ca shift their mindset towards a situation to help them cope (Naughton, 1997). Another cognitive function that one might use as a coping strategy is looking at the current situation from a positive lens and taking a more optimistic approach towards the situation such as saying, "At least I get to spend some quality time with my family during this lock-down period" or "I may not be getting the salary I would like but at least I have a job", this is another way an individual can look at a current situation and use these cognitive approaches to help them cope with their current situation or future problems that they might face (Naughton, 1997).

This theory overall suggests that, when one is able analyze their situation that may be causing them concern or stress, they develop the ability to be able to cope and in turn be more optimistic towards their current or future situation. The theory further suggests that coping and optimism may be independent from one another, as one can use many coping strategies or can cope well during a situation however, may not necessarily be optimistic during that period of time (Carver, Scheier & Segerstrom, 2010).

Biological/physiological perspective[edit | edit source]

From a biological perspective, the human body possess its own way when dealing with many emotions and the coping mechanisms that our body might employ differ from one person to the other (Naughton, 1997). Threats and challenges that we encounter in our environment could potentially cause sequences of events known as neuroendocrine, these events range from conceptualized comprised of two separate responses (Naughton, 1997), the first response known as the sympathetic or adrenal response which include the catecholamine’s section otherwise known as (epinephrine, norepinephrine), the second being the sympathetic or adrenal response, which is responsible for carrying messages from the brain and delivered through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the adrenal medulla, this produces both epinephrine and norepinephrine (Naughton, 1997).

Figure 4. Is it half-full or half-empty? A question presented to many people at some point in time. What do you see?

This phenomenon is known as the “fight or flight” response proposed by Cannon (1929). This response occurs when elevation of the heart rate rises and begins to quicken, blood pressure begins to rise hence preparing the individual to either fight or run (Naughton, 1997). These are some examples of what ca occur when faced with situations and how our body responds to these external stimuli from our environment (Naughton, 1997).

Table 1.

Theories and Theorists about coping What the theory says about coping
Model of coping modes (MCM) Krohne (1993) This Model deals with individual differences of a person's attention orientation and their emotional-behavioral regulation when faced with stressful conditions.
Stress and coping, Lazarus and Folkman (1984)

Another theory proposed by Martin Seligman (1991) known as learned optimism suggested that

Table 2.

Theories and Theorists about optimism What the theory says about optimism
Dispositional optimism, Carver and Scheier (1985)
Learned optimism, Seligman (1991)
Figure 5. The fear of the pandemic and the uncertainty of future life events.

How are optimism and coping related?[edit | edit source]

Vast research on this matter have proposed various different suggestions regarding optimism and coping (reference)

How does one affect the other?[edit | edit source]

  1. how does optimism affect coping?
  2. how does coping affect optimism?
  3. are they dependent on one another?

Are they independent from one another?[edit | edit source]

Or are they independent from one another?

  1. do they work simultaneously?
  2. can you cope but not be optimistic?
  3. can you experience both separately?
  4. can you be optimistic but not cope well?

Does gender affect levels of optimism and coping?[edit | edit source]

  1. Are females more optimistic than males?
  2. can males cope better than females?
  3. can females cope better than males? are they more or less optimistic than males?

How do optimism and coping influence well-being and mental health?[edit | edit source]

  1. does optimism play a role in good mental health?
  2. does an individual's well-being depend on an individual's ability to cope through life stressors?
  3. how does mental health and well-being affect level's of optimism in an individual?

How has COVID-19 influenced optimism and coping?

Many people world wide were struck with fear and uncertainty when the pandemic first began to spread (reference), this left many people unsure of what to do and feeling lost, and living in constant fear (reference). Rich and poor, young and old where now experiencing the same fear and uncertainty, they also shared one common goal which was wanting the pandemic to be over (reference). According to a recent study conducted by Prasath et al., 2021, University students were recruited to take part in examining the effects of student's well-being in response to the COVID-19 pandemic out break and how that may have affected their studies (Prasath et al., 2021).

  1. are people less optimistic due to covid-19?
  2. are people coping well in response to covid-19 and the lock-down?
  3. are people more optimistic and coping well during this pandemic?

Case Study
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Quizzes[edit | edit source]

Quizzes are a direct way to engage readers. But don't make quizzes too hard or long. It is better to have one or two review questions per major section than a long quiz at the end. Try to quiz conceptual understanding, rather than trivia.

Here are some simple quiz questions which could be adapted. Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Quizzes are an interactive learning feature:


2 Long quizzes are a good idea:


To learn about different types of quiz questions, see Quiz.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Conclusion is arguably the most important section. It should be possible for someone to read only the Overview and the Conclusion and still get a good idea of the topic.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Cruz, J. P., Cabrera, D. N. C., Hufana, O. D., Alquwez, N., & Almazan, J. (2018). Optimism, proactive coping and quality of life among nurses: A cross‐sectional study. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(9-10), 2098–2108.

Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 879–889.

Cabras, C., & Mondo, M. (2018). Coping strategies, optimism, and life satisfaction among first-year university students in Italy: gender and age differences. Higher Education, 75(4), 643–654.

Fasano, J., Shao, T., Huang, H., Kessler, A. J., Kolodka, O. P., & Shapiro, C. L. (2020). Optimism and coping: do they influence health outcomes in women with breast cancer? A systemic review and meta-analysis. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 183(3), 495–501.

Naughton, F. O. (1997). Stress and coping. Retrieved on Sep, 3, 2021.

Priscilla Rose Prasath, Peter C Mather, Christine Suniti Bhat, & Justine K James. (2021). University Student Well-Being During COVID-19: The Role of Psychological Capital and Coping Strategies. The Professional Counselor (Greensboro, N.C.), 11(1), 46–60.

Prati, G., & Pietrantoni, L. (2009). Optimism, Social Support, and Coping Strategies As Factors Contributing to Posttraumatic Growth: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Loss & Trauma, 14(5), 364–388.

Riolli, L., & Savicki, V. (2003). Optimism and Coping as Moderators of the Relationship between Chronic Stress and Burnout. Psychological Reports, 92(3_suppl), 1215–1226.

External links[edit | edit source]