Positive reappraisal as a stress coping strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Juan Pablo Garza Varela, Carlos de la Cruz-de la Cruz, Jessica Giselle Leija Guerrero, Karen Estefanía Sánchez Rodríguez, Omar Kawas Valle

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17711/SM.0185-3325.2021.023


Introduction. The stress coping strategies people rely on impact their psychological well-being and may be related to the risk of developing psychopathology in the short- and long-term after an unfortunate event.

Objective. To define the main stress coping strategies in our region as a first step in assessing the risk of developing psychopathology derived from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Method. This is an observational, cross-sectional, analytical study that includes 396 participants over 18 years of age residents of the state of Nuevo Leon. Using an online form, the participants were asked to complete the Coping Strategies Questionnaire (CAE).

Results. In general, after two months of mitigation measures in Mexico, positive reappraisal was the stress coping strategy with the highest score in the population studied. We found higher scores on negative auto-focused and overt emotional expression on the comparation between sociodemographic subgroups.

Discussion and conclusion. The present study shows that, in our community, positive reappraisal was the stress coping strategy with the highest score. Positive reappraisal is an active form of coping associated with greater psychological well-being and fewer risk of developing psychopathology in the short and long term. Based on this, our hypothesis is that the predominant use of this strategy could translate into a higher psychological well-being during and after the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the studied sample.


Psychological stress; psychological adaptation; COVID-19; coping; Coping Strategies Questionnaire; positive reappraisal

Full Text:



Asmundson, G., Paluszek, M. M., Landry, C. A., Rachor, G. S., McKay, D., & Taylor, S. (2020). Do pre-existing anxiety-related and mood disorders differentially impact COVID-19 stress responses and coping? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, 102271. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102271

Badellino, H., Gobbo, M. E., Torres, E., & Aschieri, M. E. (2021). Early indicators and risk factors associated with mental health problems during COVID-19 quarantine: Is there a relationship with the number of confirmed cases and deaths?. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 67(5):567-575. doi: 10.1177/0020764020966020

Balasubramanian, A., Paleri, V., Bennett, R., & Paleri, V. (2020). Impact of COVID‐19 on the mental health of surgeons and coping strategies. Head & Neck, 42(7), 1638-1644. doi: 10.1002/hed.26291

Brooks, S., Webster, R., Smith, L., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce It: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, 395(10227), 912-920. doi: 10.1016/SO140-6736(20)30460-8

Cai, H., Tu, B., Ma, J., Chen, L., Fu, L., Jiang, Y., & Zhuang, Q. (2020). Psychological impact and coping strategies of frontline medical staff in Hunan between January and March 2020 during the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Hubei, China. Medical Science Monitor, 26, e924171-1. doi: 10.12659/msm.924171

Cao, W., Fang, Z., Hou, G., Han, M., Xu, X., Dong, J., & Zheng, J. (2020). The psychological impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on college students in China. Psychiatry Research, 287, 112934. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112934

Carstensen, L. L, & Mikels, J. A. (2005). At the Intersection of Emotion and Cognition: Aging and the Positivity Effect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(3), 117-121. doi: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00348.x

Carver, C., & Connor-Smith, J. (2010). Personality and Coping. Annual Review of Psychology, 61(1), 679-704. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100352

Chew, Q. H., Wei, K. C., Vasoo, S., Chua, H. C., & Sim, K. (2020). Narrative synthesis of psychological and coping responses towards emerging infectious disease outbreaks in the general population: practical considerations for the COVID-19 pandemic. Singapore Medical Journal, 61(7), 350-356. doi: 10.11622/smedj.2020046

de la Cruz-de la Cruz, C. (2020). Medical education and coronavirus disease-19: Current experiences and upcoming challenges to be addressed. Medicina Universitaria, 22(3), 138-139. doi: 10.24875/RMU.20000042

Deckx, L., van den Akker, M., Buntinx, F., & van Driel, M. (2018). A systematic literature review on the association between loneliness and coping strategies. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 23(8), 899-916. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2018.1446096

Endler, N. S., & Parker, J. D. (1990). Multidimensional assessment of coping: A critical evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(5), 844-854. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.58.5.844

Fluharty, M., & Fancourt, D. (2020). How have people been coping during the COVID-19 pandemic? Patterns and predictors of coping strategies amongst 26,580 UK adults. PsyArXiv Preprints, 1-22. doi: 10.31234/osf.io/nx7y5

Gallagher, M. W., Zvolensky, M. J., Long, L. J., Rogers, A. H., & Garey, L. (2020). The Impact of Covid-19 experiences and associated stress on anxiety, depression, and functional impairment in American adults. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 44(6), 1043-1051. doi: 10.1007/s10608-020-10143-y

Gerhold, L. (2020). COVID-19: Risk perception and Coping strategies. Freie Universitat Berlin, 1-11 doi: 10.31234/osf.io/xmpk4

González Ramírez, M. T., & Landero Hernández, R. (2007). Cuestionario de afrontamiento del estrés (CAE): validación en una muestra mexicana. Revista de Psicopatología y Psicología Clínica, 12(3), 189-198. doi: 10.5944/rppc.vol.12.num.3.2007.4044

Guo, Y., Cao, Q., Hong, Z., Tan, Y., Chen, S., Jin, H. J., ... Yan, Y. (2020). The origin, transmission, and clinical therapies on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak – an update on the status. Military Medical Research, 7(11), 1-10. doi: 10.1186/s40779-020-00240-0

Ibañez, G., Buck, C., Khatchikian, N., & Norris, F. (2004). Qualitative analysis of coping strategies among mexican disaster survivors. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 17(1), 69-85. doi: 10.1080/10615800310001639628

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. (2020). COVID-19 by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). [COVID-19 Map]. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Kelly, M. M., Tyrka, A. R., Price, L. H., & Carpenter, L. L. (2008). Sex differences in the use of coping strategies: predictors of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Depression and Anxiety, 25(10), 839-846. doi: 10.1002/da.20341

Lazarus, R., & Folkman, S. (1974). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Encyclopedia of Health and Behavior. New York, NY: Springer. AdvancePublication Online. doi: 10.4135/9781412952576.n198

Lee, E., & Lee, H. (2019). Disaster awareness and coping: Impact on stress, anxiety, and depression. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 55(2), 311-318. doi: 10.1111/ppc.12351

Li, Y., Wang, Y., Jiang, J., Valdimarsdóttir, U., Fall, K., Fang, F., … Zhang, W. (2020). Psychological distress among health professional students during the COVID-19 outbreak. Psychological Medicine, 1-3. doi: 10.1017/S0033291720001555

Limón-Vázquez, A., Guillén-Ruiz, G., & Herrera-Huerta, E. (2020). The Social Isolation Triggered by COVID-19: Effects on Mental Health and Education in Mexico. Health and Academic Achievement. doi: 10.5772/intechopen.93886

Master, S., Amodio, D., Stanton, A., Yee, C., Hilmert, C., & Taylor, S. (2009). Neurobiological correlates of coping through emotional approach. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 23(1), 27-35. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2008.04.007

Matud, M. P. (2004). Gender differences in stress and coping styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 37(7), 1401-1415. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2004.01.010

Meléndez, J., Mayordomo, T., Sancho, P., & Tomás, J. (2012). Coping strategies: Gender differences and development throughout life span. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 15(3), 1089-1098. doi: 10.5209/rev_sjop.2012.v15.n3.39399

Neubauer, A., Smyth, J., & Sliwinski, M. (2019). Age Differences in Proactive Coping With Minor Hassles in Daily Life. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(1), 7-16. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gby061

Nielsen, M., & Knardahl, S. (2014). Coping strategies: A prospective study of patterns, stability, and relationships with psychological distress. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 55(2), 142-150. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12103

Nowlan, J., Wuthrich, V., & Rapee, R. (2015). Positive reappraisal in older adults: a systematic literature review. Aging & Mental Health, 19(6), 475-484. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.954528

Nowlan, J., Wuthrich, V., & Rapee, R. (2016). The impact of positive reappraisal on positive (and negative) emotion among older adults. International Psychogeriatrics, 28(4), 681-693. doi: 10.1017/s1041610215002057

Perez-Tejada, J., Garmendia, L., Labaka, A., Vegas, O., Gómez-Lazaro, E., & Arregi, A. (2019). Active and Passive Coping Strategies: Comparing psychological distress, cortisol, and proinflammatory cytokine levels in breast cancer survivors. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 23(6), 583-590. doi: 10.1188/19.cjon.583-590

Pozzi, G., Frustaci, A., Tedeschi, D., Solaroli, S., Grandinetti, P., Di Nicola, M., & Janiri, L. (2015). Coping strategies in a sample of anxiety patients: factorial analysis and associations with psychopathology. Brain and Behavior, 5(8),1-10. doi: 10.1002/brb3.351

Ptacek, J. T., Smith, R. E., & Dodge, K. L. (1994). Gender differences in coping with stress: When stressor and appraisals do not differ. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(4), 421-430. doi: 10.1177/0146167294204009

Rabelo, I., Lee, V., Fallah, M., Massaquoi, M., Evlampidou, I., … Severy, N. (2016). Psychological Distress among ebola survivors Discharged from an ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia, Liberia – A Qualitative study. Frontiers in Public Health, 4, 142. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00142

Sandín, B., & Chorot, P. (2003). Cuestionario de afrontamiento del estrés (CAE): desarrollo y validación preliminar. Revista de Psicopatología y Psicología Clínica, 8(1), 39-53. doi: 10.5944/rppc.vol.8.num.1.2003.3941

See, C. M., & Essau, C. A. (2010). Coping Strategies in Cross-Cultural Comparison. In: Mayer B., Kornadt HJ. (eds). Psychologie – Kultur – Gesellschaft (pp. 161-173). VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. doi: 10.1007/978-3-531-92212-6_7

Shanahan, L., Steinhoff, A., Bechtiger, L., Murray, A., Nivette, A., Hepp, U., … Eisner, M. (2020). Emotional distress in young adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence of risk and resilience from a longitudinal cohort study. Psychological Medicine, 1-10. doi: 10.1017/s003329172000241x

Smith, M., Saklofske, D., Keefer, K., & Tremblay, P. (2015). Coping strategies and psychological outcomes: The moderating effects of personal resiliency. The Journal of Psychology, 150(3), 318-332. doi: 10.1080/00223980.2015.1036828

Tamres, L., Janicki, D., & Helgeson, V. (2002). Sex differences in coping behavior: A meta-analytic review and an examination of relative coping. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(1), 2-30. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0601_1

Valencia, D. N. (2020) Brief Review on COVID-19: The 2020 Pandemic Caused by SARS-CoV-2. Cureus, 12(3), e7386. doi: 10.7759/cureus.7386

Veer, I. M., Riepenhausen, A., Zerban, M., Wackerhagen, C., Puhlmann, L., Engen, H., ...Kalisch, R. (2021). Psycho-social factors associated with mental resilience in the Corona lockdown. Translational Psychiatry, 11, 67. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-01150-4

Wood, S. K., & Bhatnagar, S. (2015). Resilience to the effects of social stress: Evidence from clinical and preclinical studies on the role of coping strategies. Neurobiology of Stress, 1, 164-173. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2014.11.002

Zhao, H., He, X., Fan, G., Li, L., Huang, Q., Qiu, Q., ... Xu, H. (2020). COVID-19 infection outbreak increases anxiety level of general public in China: involved mechanisms and influencing factors. Journal of Affective Disorders, 276, 446-452. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.07.085