Counterproductive Strategies for Coping with Stress
College students develop a variety of habits in response to stress some of them ineffective and even unhealthy. Here are a few unhealthy coping techniques to avoid:
• Alcohol. A few drinks might make you feel at ease, and getting drunk may help you forget the stress in your life but any relief alcohol provides is temporary. Binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption are not effective ways to handle stress, and using alcohol to deal with stress puts you at risk for all the short- and long-term problems associated with alcohol abuse.
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• Tobacco. The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products can make you feel relaxed and may even increase your ability to concentrate. Tobacco, however, is highly addictive, and smoking causes cancer, heart disease, sexual problems, and many other health problems. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
• Other drugs. Altering your body chemistry to cope with stress is a strategy with many pitfalls. Caffeine, for example, raises cortisol levels and blood pressure and can disrupt sleep. Marijuana can elicit panic attacks with repeated use, and some research suggests that it heightens the body's stress response.
• Binge eating. Eating can induce relaxation, which reduces stress. Eating as a means of coping with stress, however, may lead to weight gain and to binge eating, a risky behavior associated with eating disorders.
There is one other problem with these methods of fighting stress: None of them addresses the actual cause of the stress in your life. To combat stress in a healthy way, learn some of the stress-management techniques described in this chapter.