It’s 9:00 pm on a Tuesday night. You have two tests and an essay due tomorrow and have no idea how you will get it all done. The stress starts creeping in; first the sweaty palms, then the racing heartbeat. You know you need to calm down or else you’ll never get anything done. So, you do what you always do when you’re stressed: open Netflix and let the relaxing sounds of your favorite sitcom instantly relax you.
Many people find themselves rewatching a favorite show or movie during stressful times. It can help take your mind off anxious feelings as well as remind you of happy memories and spending time with people in your life that you love. With so much stress in students’ daily lives, comfort shows have become a popular coping mechanism. Just like any form of media, it can easily become a distraction and prevent someone from accomplishing what is causing their anxiety. However, when used responsibly, it can be a healthy and beneficial way to deal with the pressure of daily life.
“A comfort show is something that you can watch when you feel alone, stressed, or sad. Comfort shows for me are something I’ve already watched before because I find it comforting to know what’s going to happen. You’re not going to feel stressed out watching it,” said Una Bleckmann (‘25). She finds herself watching shows when she has had a hard week and needs to decompress but also in the moments that she is stressed.
Most of the time a comfort show is something that you’ve watched before. For me, it’s Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched that show probably over five times all the way through. I know every episode like the back of my hand, so for me the characters, music, and plot are very relaxing and comforting.
School counselor Kim Cassamas has similar feelings to the sitcom Friends. Throughout college she watched it every Thursday night and in her adult life she has rewatched it when she feels stressed. “It’s nostalgic, brings back good memories.”
Good memories are a big part of what makes rewatching a show so comforting. Bleckmann shared that one of her favorite shows, Selling Sunset, is something she used to watch with her mom. She also shared that “me and my friends have a lot of shows that we rewatch together, so we all know what’s going to happen. It’s sort of a tradition so then when I watch it by myself, I’m [reminded] of all the good memories connected to it.”
One of the psychology teachers at ORHS, Dave Hawley, said, “there’s sometimes a sense of nostalgia. As people age there’s a level of comfort with how things were in the past,” which is why most of the time older shows or shows that you watched when you were younger become your ‘comfort shows.’
“I have an obsession with Glee just because I’ve been watching it ever since I was little,” said Lydia Foster (‘24). She continued, “I find really chaotic, funny shows to be the most comforting because there’s nothing necessarily bad that happens and everything is usually solved in the end.” This is another reason why sitcoms like Friends and Foster’s favorite, New Girl, are popular choices for comfort shows. Foster also shared that “[I find myself watching] definitely when I’m supposed to be doing something for school because I usually procrastinate a lot.”
This is where some trouble for students can kick in. “It depends on why you’re watching. If you are super anxious about an upcoming project and you are overwhelmed about getting the project done, you might find yourself watching TV comfort your anxiety about the looming deadline. That’s also referred to as procrastination. There’s a fine line as to how that plays out, it can become a distraction or avoidance behavior,” said Hawley.
Cassamas echoed this statement and shared that it’s important when watching a comfort show to keep in mind whether it is hurting or harming. “If it takes you away from accomplishing the things that are creating that ‘anxiety’ then [it’s not a good coping mechanism]. However, if it allows you to take a step away, decompress, hit reset and then be productive moving forward then I think it could be healthy.”
If comfort shows make you feel better during anxiety inducing times, you are not alone. Cassamas said, “the predictability, the routine, and knowing what to anticipate is why kids watch shows or episodes over and over again. It’s a way to gain control in their life and, of course, it’s a source of comfort.”
If you like to use comfort shows as a coping mechanism for stress in your life, here are a few things I would recommend for using it in a healthy way.
1. Don’t watch. This may sound weird, but I tend to only listen to the audio of my comfort shows vs. having it on in front of me. If I can see the screen, I’m more likely to get distracted watching than if I’m treating it like background noise.
2. Stick to 22- minute sitcoms. As much as I love Gilmore Girls, I’m much more likely to get distracted by a drama like that than a silly, short show like the Office or New Girl. It’s also a good check-in. If after the show is over you are distracted, it’s time to turn it off.
3. Assign tasks per episode. If an episode is 22 minutes long, set a goal for when it’s over. For example, you’ll complete one problem set for math or write the methods section of your lab report. A small, attainable goal that will get you feeling accomplished and more productive.