“Is it better to sleep it off when you’re going through a tough time?”

—Mark S.*, University of Alaska, Anchorage (*name changed)

Sleep can be a great way to help yourself if you’re sick, but it’s not the best way to cope with tough times. When you’re asleep you’re avoiding your problems, but when you’re awake you can get the support you need from yourself and others. So, how can you take care of yourself in tough times?

Think about possible solutions

You don’t need to act on it right away, but start thinking about what you can do to make the situation better. How can you solve or alleviate the issue? What are the first steps needed to find a solution?

For example, are you having a hard time at school because you are overwhelmed with homework? If so, what are some ways to lighten up your workload? Could you reserve some extra time during the day to catch up? Are there people who could help you? Could you talk to your teachers? Or get a tutor?

Distract yourself

Instead of retreating into bed and under the covers, try to do something else. This may be the perfect time to try something new. Have you been meaning to be physically active again? Go for a walk outside. Being active outdoors can have dramatic positive effects, reducing our stress and increasing our coping ability.

Hang out with your friends

Friends can be the support you need in tough times. You can talk with them openly, and they’ll listen and may have ideas for how to help. Sometimes when we are dealing with tough stuff, it’s a relief to just hang out with our friends and get our minds off it. Those relationships build our resilience.

Take care of yourself

When you’re dealing with a stressful situation, you need to take extra care of yourself. Remember to eat regularly, stay physically active, get enough sleep, and really listen to what your body is telling you. You may need some alone time, and that’s OK—just don’t habitually withdraw.

Stay positive

When you are feeling down, try to remember that this is only temporary. You won’t always feel this way. Take it one hour at a time so that you aren’t overwhelmed. One hour you might be upbeat, the next hour you may feel more discouraged. It’s OK to take the good with the bad—after all, that’s what developing coping skills is all about.

Ask the counselor

The counselor

Sharon Sevier, PhD, LPC, is chair of the board of directors of the American School Counselor Association.