Maintaining healthy coping methods is a must for the upcoming school year.
No one comes to college without already having heard at least a dozen different lectures about how much their life is about to change: new social groups and opportunities, harder school courses, raised expectations from peers and the new onus of managing your own schedule. Change in life is guaranteed when entering school as a freshman, and stress is its natural bedfellow.
If stress is appropriately managed, it can work as an excellent motivator and can elevate one’s quality of life. Just enough stress gets you to all of your classes and has your homework done in time, for example. If left unchecked, however, it can develop into low-level anxiety, which may become chronic if compounded with additional stressors and a lack of healthy coping mechanisms
For undergraduates, moderate anxiety and depression are often linked with a lower overall GPA, increased likelihood to drop out of school and a reduced lifetime annual income. According to the Stress and Resiliency in College project run in the 2015–16 school year, 40% of TU students reported having experienced moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression, and 70% had not reached out to academic or psychological resources to lessen their symptoms.
These statistics aren’t meant to frighten but rather to hammer home just how damaging unmanaged stress can become to a healthy livelihood. Stress is a guarantee in life, but it doesn’t have to ruin the rest of it.
The key to maintaining healthy stress is to grow habits around healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. The process by which you understand and process life’s difficulties is going to be unique to the individual. Athletic
types may find respite in exercise, while others may find it necessary to find social support systems built specifically to help deal with stress or anxiety.
A pretty straightforward method of coping is to just confront the problem at hand. This can shake out a couple of different ways. For example, say you’re a neat freak with a messy roommate whose poor habits are causing an ant infestation in your shared space. If you choose to directly confront your stressor (in this case, your gross roomie), it can take the form of either mediation or assertion. One method finds compromise, while the other may be more satisfying in the moment. Neither is necessarily the right or wrong way of solving problems—they just take different paths to the same end result of reducing ants and stress.
If you’re not much one for confrontation, you can try to change the way you view the mess. Maybe finding the humor in your ant-infested room takes down your stress levels. Or maybe you find the brightside in the situation by thinking that your roommate may improve his cleaning habits after the ant incident. Positively altering how you understand a stressful situation works well to assuage your anxieties, and I definitely find my self relying on this coping method pretty often.
Another completely valid method is to moderate your stress directly rather than the cause of the stress. Not all sources of stress can be immediately dealt with, nor is it always possible to view a situation in the positive. Self-moderating stress can be as simple as implementing breathing exercises and muscle relaxation into your everyday life.
You can achieve more longterm moderation by understanding what thought processes trigger stress symptoms and then training yourself to avoid them. This often involves avoiding absolutes and your own helplessness. Instead of thinking “Daniel always leaves Fritos everywhere because he doesn’t care about ants and I can’t do anything to stop him,” try to simply see the Frito-incident as a single occurrence and do what you can to communicate with Daniel in
the future. Or at least try to find the humor in it.
There are tons of other coping methods that can be positively life changing if correctly implemented. I’ve already mentioned exercise and support groups, but there are also different types of analytical problem solving, distancing
and spiritual coping that work for all types of different people.
And, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out some good ol’ counseling. Here at TU, the Counseling and Psychological Services Center, located in the Alexander Health Center, offers its services to undergraduates. Best of all, there is no charge for students seeking psychological counseling. For more information, call 918-631-2200 or visit utulsa.edu/campus-life/counseling-services/.