A coping style or strategy is simply an approach we take to dealing with stressful or traumatic situations. There are two primary functions that healthy coping strategies should address – managing the stressor and managing the emotions triggered by the stressor.
The majority of studies have found two things to be true in relation to coping mechanisms:
When an individual perceives their ability to cope with a situation as low it is more stressful
When an individual perceives the situation as controllable, they are more likely to use proactive coping strategies. Whereas avoidance strategies are more common in situations that feel uncontrollable (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287831370_Task-oriented_versus_emotion-oriented_coping_strategies_The_case_of_college_students).
Task-oriented coping is considered a problem-focused approach. It's proactive. The work of Lazarus and Folkman, as cited in the Open University of Israel's study, has given us the blueprint for coping strategies.
It was from their work that coping strategies were classified into the three main classes we discuss now – avoidance-oriented which are typically maladaptive approaches, and emotion and task-oriented, which are healthy, adaptive approaches.
A task-oriented coping approach involves direct action. The direct action taken seeks to change the situation itself to relieve the stress it is causing. Whereas an emotion-focused approach seeks to deal entirely with the emotional response to a stressor. And an avoidance-oriented approach would seek to avoid the issue altogether.
In very rare situations, an avoidance-oriented approach may be appropriate. However, in the majority of situations, it is the problem-focused combined with emotion-focused techniques that carry you through.
When the stressor is something that you cannot affect or change, then an emotional approach is a better option. However, if it is something you can change or at least influence, a problem-focused approach, such as the task-oriented coping style, may be your best bet.
Task-Oriented Coping Styles
Often, our coping mechanisms are unconscious. We don't realize what we are doing, which is why it's important to improve our ability to recognize stress and stressors, which will allow you to adopt the most approaching coping style for the situation.
When you opt for a task-oriented coping technique you are dealing with stressful tasks head-on. What does that look like in practice? Task-oriented coping styles are particularly useful in the workplace, but they can also be deployed at home if you have a busy home life with children who have loads of activities to balance alongside your work, etc.
Well, there are a lot of different ways in which it can manifest or you can actively manifest them, including:
Managing your time with comprehensive schedules and calendars is one of the most effective task-oriented coping mechanisms. When you are overwhelmed by stress related to your job or lifestyle, managing your time puts you in control of the stress. It's an effective way to relieve stress while focusing on dealing with the stressor itself at the same time.
If your stress is out of control and tasks are weighing heavily on your mind, learning how to prioritize is an effective task-orienting coping mechanism. It feeds into the time management point above as if you learn to prioritize properly it can guide your time management schedule.
Often, the biggest cause of stress is our inability to communicate that stress or our feelings that a stressor is evoking. Therefore, communication can very much be considered a task-oriented coping approach. Whether it's opening a clear line of communication with your boss/employees or opening up to your partner or friends. It could be a case of clearly communicating your plans, asking for advice, or just getting things off of your chest.
Dealing with stressors often requires planning and strategy. When you strategize ways to manage stressors and deal with issues, you are deploying a task-oriented coping style.