How to generate positive affection in situations of chronic stress.
Let's look at some ways to enhance positive affect in situations of chronic stress.
Stress is often associated with negative affect, but it has been shown that in situations of chronic stress, positive affect can often appear as well. in situations of chronic stress, positive affect can also appear frequently and is not incompatible. and that it is not incompatible.
On the other hand, affect can be defined as an emotional state that is central to an experience. It can be divided according to its valence into positive or negative affect; or according to its intensity, into weak or strong affect.
Negative affect comprises unpleasant emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, hostility and guilt. Positive affect, on the other hand, comprises pleasant emotions, such as cheerfulness, kindness, relief, self-confidence, experience-seeking and vitality.
In general, we all have a greater tendency to experience positive or negative affect in our life circumstances. This tendency will depend on genetic and learning factors. Nevertheless, affect is dynamic and context-dependent, with inter- and intrapersonal variability. This opens the door to the possibility of learning new coping strategiesThis opens the door to the possibility of learning new coping strategies that increase the likelihood of experiencing positive affect even in situations of chronic stress.
Positive affect in the face of chronic stress
Historically, it has been considered that the negative affect has an adaptive function when situations appear that exceed our coping resources and generate stress. This is because emotions, such as anxiety or anger, allow us to become aware that a problem exists, focus our attention on it, and provide us with energy and motivation to take some kind of action in response to the problem.
Positive affect, on the other hand, has been associated with reduced attention to problems and decreased motivation to do something about them. and decreased motivation to deal with them by providing a sense of security.
However, studies have found that positive affect, far from what has been referred to, our creativity and flexibility, encouraging us to be able to broaden the range of behaviors we put in place to deal with problems. we put in place to cope with stressors. In addition, it helps us process information even when it is bad news and allows us to take a break from so much discomfort.
This can be considered adaptive, especially in situations where stress is maintained over time. It can also be a measure to prevent the development of obsessive and/or depressive clinical symptomatology.
How can we generate positive affect in situations of chronic stress?
Folkman and Moskowitz (2000) conducted a longitudinal study with caregivers of people with HIV. In it, they identified three types of coping related to the emergence and maintenance of positive affect: positive reinterpretation, goal-oriented coping, and finding meaning in everyday situations.
Positive reinterpretation is a cognitive strategy that is summarized in what is commonly known as "seeing the glass as half full" instead of "half empty". instead of "half empty". It includes the primary valuation of the situation as something that brings some benefit, however small, and the avoidance of comparison with other people's circumstances.
In addition, it usually goes hand in hand with the activation of personal values. In the case of the caregivers, the effort made was valuable as it was a demonstration of love and helped to preserve the dignity of the sick people they cared for.
2. Goal-oriented coping.
This type of coping is active and is directed at specific goals to solve a particular problem. It may include seeking information, making decisions, developing a plan of action, resolving conflicts, acquiring new knowledge or developing new skills.
Even in situations where the controllability of the course of events is low, as in the case of caregivers, task focus has been shown to promote positive affect.. In particular, it increases the perception of effectiveness and mastery, fostering confidence in one's own resources and abilities to cope with the stressor while it lasts, regardless of the final outcome. 3. Giving meaning to everyday situations.
"Is there anything you did today, or anything that happened to you, that made you feel good and that had meaning for you and helped you get through the day?". This is one of the questions asked of the caregivers in the study described. 99.5% said yes. Half of the situations described were planned and intentional (e.g., having a special meal or meeting friends) and the other half were events that just happened (e.g., seeing a pretty flower or receiving a compliment for something minor).
The meaning we give to everyday situations is what shapes the concrete emotions we feel every day when we are going through a time of stress. It is to be distinguished from the meaning we may give to our life, which is abstract and is related to beliefs and expectations about ourselves, the world and the future.
Both negative and positive affect have an adaptive function in stressful situations..
While emotions such as sadness or anger can help us to become aware that something is happening and to focus our attention on it, positive emotions also help us to cope with difficult situations, especially when such circumstances last for a long time. These emotions are not incompatible, but can occur simultaneously in the face of the same event.
In particular, positive affect can prevent the onset of psychopathological symptoms, stimulate our creativity and increase our flexibility and adaptability.
Each one of us, through our experiences, discovers what helps us to face the difficult moments of our lives. What studies suggest we do to generate positive affect while going through difficult or chronically stressful circumstances are three strategies: positive reinterpretation, goal-oriented coping and, most especially, giving meaning to everyday situations. In psychotherapy processes, we professionals who support patients also make use of these principles.
- Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Positive Affect and the Other Side of Coping. American Psychologist, 55(6), 647-654. https://doi.org/10.1037//0003-066X.55.6.647
- Naragon-Gainey, K., McMahon, T. P., & Park, J. (2018). The contributions of affective traits and emotion regulation to internalizing disorders: Current state of the literature
- and measurement challenges. American Psychologist, 73(9), 1175-1186. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000371