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U of T Study: Avoiding Your Problems (Just a Little) is Good For You

Cheng and McCarthy say that avoiding your problems (for a little while) will make them disappear.

A study conducted by a U of T PhD candidate says that avoiding your problems leads to reduced stress. “Almost any activity could help take your mind off your troubles as long as you are mentally disengaged,” the paper reports. Can we take that to mean students need to procrastinate more? Not necessarily.

An investigation comparing a sample of university students faced with a number of activities to juggle found that those who actively disengaged from their workload and focused on something else for some time came out on top. The report, produced by PhD candidate Bonnie Hayden Cheng and Associate Professor Julie McCarthy from the U of T’s Scarborough’s Department of Management and the Rotman School of Management finds that “avoidance in terms of mental break” allow students to chill out and ultimately leads them to better manage their to-do lists. On the other hand, students who simply ignored their problems “hoping they would disappear” fared far worse. “Wishing for our problems to go away is counterproductive because there’s an element of learned helplessness, of having no control over our responsibilities,” says Cheng.

“There are benefits to stepping back and actively taking your mind off your responsibilities,” reports Cheng. This is interesting news coming from a school with a reputation for high levels of anxiety among students, relating to high expectations of study habits. But their research now proves that kids need to put off the stressful stuff for a little while instead of locking themselves in Robarts.

[via U of T News]

Correction: Previously, this article incorrectly stated that students who ignored their problems “hoping that they would simply disappear” fared best in the study, when in fact they fared worst. Also, our previous headline that they released the report reluctantly, which was not the case. Toronto Standard apologizes for any unintentional misrepresentations of the release and findings. Please find U of T’s original release on the research here.


Farrah Khaled is an intern at the Toronto Standard. Follow her on twitter at @farkhaly.

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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