Trying out positive coping strategies for a week: Here’s what I learned

Alexander Hong/Staff

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Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

I am procrastinating,

And I know … so are you!

It’s February again: You’ve been staring at the same line in your reading for the past hour, while your lab, group project, DeCal presentation and the days you’ve skimped on working out during the past week swirl in your head. There are a million reasons not to start and only a couple of reasons to leave the comfort of your nest of plush blankets. While there are plenty of coping strategies that might work in the moment, they often come with less-than-desirable effects. This week, I wanted to start anew by focusing on one bad habit a day, hoping to replace each with its better counterpart by the end of the week. 

Day 1: Replace my chocolate stress-eating with apple slices

I woke up with a dull but lingering pain in my stomach. As I think back on the large, large pile of chocolates that had shed their wrappers the night before, I realized the naivety of my short-lived happiness. I eventually managed to walk away for an hour or so before peeling and slicing an apple. I’ve gotten really good at peeling apples with a fruit knife, so it makes me feel like a proud chef (OK, Fruit Ninja), even if only for a second.

Day 2: Mop the floors instead of moping around the house

I never understood how someone could go from screaming into the void to thoughtfully journaling. My old way of coping involved listlessly floating around the house with a cloud of dark energy coming out of my nostrils, but my new take wouldn’t change my routine too much — just for the better. This time, I was also useful. Doing something good generally makes me feel good in return. Dishes were my next great beast to tackle: I turned the faucet to the hottest setting, rocked out to some Dio and polished that plate as if my grades depended on it.

Day 3: Refocus after a steamy shower or bath

I sometimes exercise to alleviate my stress, which is a great, positive method. However, this would take so long that I would run out of time to do the actual work. So this time, I decided to take my reading to the tub with me. The edges got a bit soaked, but I got through it with no other distractions, and I felt good again. If dropping important study material into water is scary, taking a shower to refresh is still a great way to regain focus through a quick change in environment, temperature and mentality.

Day 4: Inhale some pleasant aroma with aromatherapy

While essential oils and incense might not offer the same mild euphoria or wakefulness as smoking, they do offer relaxation. Though still in beginning stages of research, benefits observed in using essential lavender, lemon, eucalyptus and thyme oils to complement traditional patient care methods have already shown a reduction of anxiety and sleep deprivation. Matching the scent to a nice, spa-like playlist not only gives me a little moment to withdraw from the busy demands of the day but also checks off self-care. 

Day 5: Hug a loved one; don’t fight them

Maybe it’s just a me thing, but when I’m stressed out and a loved one is near, I feel compelled to spill my guts and sing ballads of my miseries. I generally don’t consider myself a complainer, but people who know me well probably would sincerely like to plug my mouth with a bathtub drain stopper. In order to undo the profound, draining effects I’ve been having on the people around me, I offered everyone a hug as a truce.

Day 6: Get free air instead of splurging on a thing-of-the-moment.

I’m usually always up for a quick fix for my self-esteem by dashing into a shop and digging around for a life-changing thrift buy, but my wallet is crying and I’m going through a phase of minimalism in terms of lifestyle choices. And so I took a step out of my house. I felt more satisfaction than I’ve felt in ages, wandering the streets of my neighborhood, staring into the foggy mountains, feeling the breeze tug at my baby hairs.

Day 7: Do the work?

I did the work! All these positive coping methods are really meant to allow for self-care and a celebration for small wins. But the big celebration is to be held off until the actual source of anxiety and stress can be conquered. Of course, not all stress stems from schoolwork or something that can be changed overnight. And even work that can be easily finished sometimes feels unending. This is why the best way to alleviate some of your burdens is to make positive coping a conscious choice and, eventually, a habit.

Contact Angelina Yin at [email protected].