Coping spread

When faced with stress, I find refuge by staying organized with a disciplined routine as well as a few coping mechanisms.

Even when we aren’t especially stressed, we all have habits that ‘get us through the day.’ Whether it’s a critical morning coffee, a workout routine or an episode of Breaking Bad between readings, we find ways to keep ourselves in a balanced state of control.

Last spring, an important term project had me working day and night under tremendous pressure. Every night I would reward myself with toast and peanut butter for my long day’s work.

But one night, I couldn’t find my jar of peanut butter.

Heart racing, I frantically rummaged through my kitchen desperate to find my ‘fix.’ To my horror, I found the jar empty in the recycling bin, and my world shattering.

I immediately stormed into my housemate’s room and launched the empty peanut butter jar at her. I screamed at her for ruining, what at the time felt like, my entire life. The absence of toast, my unconscious stress-coping mechanism, exposed my true, out-of-control emotions.

After this completely irrational reaction, I started to wonder if addictive habits make us more susceptible to stress, even though they’re designed to do the exact opposite.

If habits can help us feel better about our stressors, they could potentially mask the origin of our anxiety and prevent us from resolving our problems.

By failing to reduce my stress properly, I sentenced myself to a breakdown by way of a peanut butter craving.

I realize this sounds overdramatic, and it is, but what I’m trying to iterate is that we shouldn’t be afraid to break out of our regimented routines, question our rituals and face our underlying issues head-on.

We live in a society that glorifies being busy, overly-caffeinated and exercised as proper methods of coping with everything else we’re expected to accomplish. What if abusing your methods of coping caused more stress than they served to manage? What if they were so distracting that they disabled you from prioritizing your energy and managing your emotions?

Habits are normal. However, it’s critical to be aware of their power and remind ourselves what our true priorities are if we want to achieve personal satisfaction. We should challenge ourselves to find refuge by facing our real stressors, instead of reaching for a jar of tasty spread.

Katherine is the Journal’s Editorial Illustrator. She’s a third-year fine arts student.

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