Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Coping is not just a problem that occurs after a big event. Any way that we deal with the events that occur in our daily lives is considered coping. Many coping mechanisms can be constructive, + act as a proactive solution, but just as many are destructive. Unhealthy coping mechanisms thrive on campuses everywhere — so much so that we don’t even realize how prevalent they are. Sometimes taking a step back + evaluating your life holistically can help you discover what to do that’s best for you, your body, + your mind. Here are some unhealthy coping mechanisms you may be familiar with, + healthier alternatives.

Unhealthy: Cramming! I can get insanely stressed while studying. My mind often wanders thinking about all the possibilities that can come from an exam. Cramming only intensifies this – the lack of sleep + stress levels combined not only leads to a bad mental state, but less retention while studying. While I do cram sometimes, I try to study by tackling one class, + its subjects, one at a time. If you divide your studying by lessons + do a little bit every day, you will ultimately feel more prepared + have a better outlook than you would if you had crammed.

Healthy: Taking a break. Staying in one space for a prolonged period of time can really take a toll on you + your mental state. Sometimes the best thing to do is just to step back + take a break – literally. Getting up, walking around, + taking a break by doing something that is not school work can really help. I have literally brought coloring books into the library before – it’s a great break that doesn’t feel “unproductive.” If I have multiple exams coming up [it always seems to work out that way!], I like to change what class I am studying for after a break. I honestly feel it helps me focus more by having fresh eyes on a new subject. Another great tip is to try to change locations + times of when you study so you can feel refreshed while doing it : ).

Unhealthy: Party culture — of course, parties happen in college, but there is an unhealthy side to them. Going out with your friends can be fun, but party culture, + the need to go out every single night can be insanely unhealthy for both your mental + physical health. People go out to feel better, but it is not constructive, as it does not address anything. Going out constantly can push the real problems we face to the side as we look forward to the next event. The hard thing is, you cannot really see the problem with this until you take a step back. Taking a breather every now + then can help you see this, + it is a great way to treat both your body + mind with respect.

Healthy: Exercise! We all love the way we feel after a workout ; ). As stereotypical as it is, exercise is an amazing, + healthy coping mechanism. Endorphins are proven to help reduce stress levels + ultimately increase your overall sense of well being. When my mind is racing, I know that running will help calm me down + clear my head, putting me in a better headspace than I was before. I think it is great to note that working out does not have to be anything extravagant — even a quick mile run can be such a help with my mood. Quick workouts are easy to incorporate into campus life, such as things you can do between/before classes, or even simple workouts that can be done in a dorm!

Unhealthy: Over-packing your schedule! There is nothing like the feeling of coming home after a long day of being productive. I personally love having a busy week, +  prefer to have a lot going on. When that goes to an extreme, however, it can be too much of a good thing. Sometimes, over-packing your schedule with extra-curriculars [which are supposed to be fun!] can be more stressful than rewarding. You often ignore how you are feeling as you move + think about one item to the next. Packing your schedule can even be physically unhealthy, as it can change important patterns. I’ve found myself often not eating a meal until 8 PM as I had been running from place to place all day. While it can be hard, try to find a couple of extra-curriculars you love + stick with those. I love being so involved in a few student groups that I am so passionate about [like CHAARG!].

Healthy: Taking a “free” night! We put our bodies through so much every week — classes, long hours behind a computer screen, stress, etc. They all take a physical toll on our body. One day a week, we owe it to ourselves – + our bodies – to reward ourselves + decompress. Even if this is just a few hours – resting is OKAY. It is instilled into most college students’ brains that if we aren’t doing school work, we are simply not busy enough, but this is not the case. Self-care is so important, + it does not have to be a grand gesture! Even giving yourself a little time to rest + reCHAARG through watching one episode of something can sometimes be sufficient.  I love to give myself a looong break between working + starting my homework when I can, it ultimately helps me be more productive in the long run.

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