Stress, coping, and hope

Psychooncology. 2010 Sep;19(9):901-8. doi: 10.1002/pon.1836.


Hope is discussed in many literatures and from many perspectives. In this essay hope is discussed from the vantage of psychology and stress and coping theory. Hope and psychological stress share a number of formal properties: both are contextual, meaning-based, and dynamic, and both affect well-being in difficult circumstances. Two assumptions underlie this essay: (1) hope is essential for people who are coping with serious and prolonged psychological stress; and (2) hope is not a perpetually self-renewing resource; it has peaks and valleys and is at times absent altogether. The relationship between hope and coping is dynamic and reciprocal; each in turn supports and is supported by the other. This relationship is illustrated with two adaptive tasks common across situations that threaten physical or psychological well-being-managing uncertainty and coping with a changing reality. The essay describes ways in which coping fosters hope when it is at low ebb as well as ways in which hope fosters and sustains coping over the long term.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Uncertainty