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Mental Health

I Use School As A Coping Mechanism, Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

For as long as I can remember, I’ve hated summer vacation. I hate winter break, summer vacation, reading week, March break, any time there’s no school, I despise it. Now you may be thinking, she’s just one of those kids that loves school so much that she can’t stand breaks, but actually, I’m not. I don’t like school just as much as the next person but it gives me something to do. 

Depression is something that I’ve dealt with since about the ninth grade. As it got worse, I bulked up my commitments, extracurriculars, courses and responsibilities just so I would always have something to do. As I piled responsibilities onto my plate, I found that I had less time to be sad. That was the start of a really unhealthy pattern of using school as a coping mechanism. 

The NCBI says that distraction is a passive coping mechanism, but it can be destructive if not used efficiently. Avoidance and escape can be negative when one cognitively dissociates from that which causes them negative emotions. 

Imagine hating taking breaks, not wanting to have free time and planning your weeks down to the hour a week in advance; that is a look into my mind. I hate being free, I cannot remember the last time I had free time and actually enjoyed it. Whatever I may be doing needs to be a responsibility because then I don’t have time to think about all the things that are wrong with and around me. 

Leave no time for the insanity to get to me. That’s been my motto for the past couple years. I’ve spent all of summer being miserable. Constantly trying to see friends, trying to make plans and wanting to have something to do so that I don’t have to think about what’s really wrong. 

It didn’t take me very long to realize that my need to be busy wasn’t normal or healthy. It leads to constant burnout. It’s a constant battle between not wanting to do work because I’m tired of working and wanting to work because I don’t want to come to terms with all my problems. 

It wasn’t until a late night in the journalism lounge when working through a haze, induced by my third Red Bull of the day, where I realized constant business is my coping mechanism. Responsibilities are my coping mechanism. I always wanted something to do but I was also always exhausted. 

Burnout. While most students are very familiar with the term and feeling, if you’re not, you’re quite lucky. Burnout is exhaustion caused by an extended period of mental, physical and emotional stress. I’ve burnt out many times and it isn’t fun. What’s the cure to burnout? Taking time off, self care and relaxing. All of the things I hate doing. Instead of taking a break, I would continue to work more and more. When I hit winter break, I was so burnt out I couldn’t get out of bed. I would spend entire days sleeping just because I didn’t want to be awake. That was when I knew I needed to change something in the new year. The concept of new years resolutions can be stupid but I promised myself a fresh start. While I had the basic goals like work out more, eat healthier and sleep on time, I also vowed to find something I loved to do that wasn’t work. It was hard but I realized it didn’t have to be anything extravagant. It ended up being something as simple as watching bad reality TV and eating hot cheetos in bed. It may sound dumb but it’s something I genuinely enjoy by myself. 

I won’t say that I’ve cured all my problems with Jersey Shore but it is getting better. As I sit here typing this, I’m also juggling six courses, two part time jobs, three student groups and being a junior editor for Her Campus Ryerson. While I’m still insanely busy, I’ve learned to take breaks and be okay with not actively working on something. 

I’m getting better and I’ll be okay. 

Duaa is a third year journalism student at Ryerson University. Being a lifelong athlete if Duaa isn't on the ice or the basketball court you can probably find her watching hockey. Her main motivation in the field of journalism is to show young girls that they can do anything the next person can do, no matter what the world tells them.
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