Counselor Ken Winingham thinks exercise and being active is one of the most overlooked healthy coping mechanisms. Other healthy coping mechanisms include journaling, getting enough sleep, taking breaks and asking for help.
Anxiety occurs when one’s limbic system is activated. The limbic system evolved to help humans recognize a threat and trigger their fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is really a release of adrenaline in the body. The limbic system cannot differentiate between stress caused by life and death issues and stress caused by modern-day man-made issues. However, with today’s issue, the fight or flight response is not normally used, and the adrenaline just sits in the body and builds up. This adrenaline is what causes people to feel anxious.
“Right now, we are getting hit by bad news or scary news from all angles. Just our normal stress right now seems amplified because of all this stuff,” Winingham said.
Winingham also advises talking to someone about mental health problems because they can help the person struggling to see around the issue. He added it is important to engage in hobbies that help people to pull away from their issues. Winingham emphasized the importance of breathing exercises to bring down one’s physical response and force one’s heartbeat to slow down, which mitigates anxiety responses.
Physical education teacher Evyn Spencer is also an advocate for mental health and healthy coping mechanisms.
“Taking breaks, getting some movement, getting some sleep and then asking for help,” Spencer said about the biggest healthy coping mechanisms she recommends.
Spencer said taking breaks is often one of the first things that students stop doing when they are under stress. She added during a break, people should do something that they enjoy in order to create positive hormones to combat the negative hormones released by stress. Spencer said sleep is important because it helps put off stress hormones. Getting exercise is also important because it releases endorphins which help to get rid of stress hormones.
When the body is stressed, it produces cortisol which can cause appetite changes, acne, fatigue and irritability.
“When you take breaks, when you do things you enjoy, when you move, when you sleep, when you ask for help, the other hormones get produced, and those hormones directly disintegrate the cortisol,” Spencer said.
Senior Camille Herrman said that one of her favorite healthy coping mechanisms is journaling.
“Every morning, I do a reflection journal, and it’s called record and reflect, and you basically record like goals you want to complete for the day and then like statistics of what you did during the day, so like how much time did I spend on a screen, how much time was I with friends, what was my favorite part of the day, what recharged me most, and that’s a great way to cope because you kind of make a log about what you did in life,” Herrman said.
Other healthy coping mechanisms Herrman uses include going to the gym, walking her dog and getting outside.
“It’s also good to manage stress so it doesn’t turn chronic because the older you get the harder extreme stress will be on you,” Herrman advised.
“I really think a big thing that the students here could benefit from is learning their bodies response to stress, learning what coping mechanisms help them the most, and then utilizing that so that it doesn’t ever become overwhelming,” Spencer said.
This will be Emily Goben’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.