Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability around the world. As college students experience new responsibilities, new friends, and new pressures, they may become overwhelmed and susceptible to depression.
Today, we're taking a closer look at a few things you can do to prepare for experiences that may result in feelings of depression.
Here's how to fight depression in college.
How to Fight Depression in College
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports depression is the second leading mental health issue among college students, with anxiety being number one.
You may not even realize you are experiencing depression. You may simply think you are having a bad day, or that you are too tired to go to college. Other symptoms include crying spells, feeling sad, empty or hopeless, or lacking interest in activities you once enjoyed.
Depression can also affect your weight. Some people begin to overeat and gain weight while others lose their appetite and lose weight. You may also feel worthless or guilty. Depression can cause you to have trouble sleeping and focusing in class and when studying. You may even find it hard to make decisions.
Any of these symptoms can mean you are struggling with depression.
You can fight depression while in college, however. Not only can you fight it, but you can also overcome it so that you can be successful in reaching your goals.
Below are some of the ways you can fight depression.
You can’t truly know if it is depression you have until you are evaluated by a mental health professional. This does not mean you must start attending therapy, although it may help. It simply means you no longer have to guess why you are having these symptoms.
Work with on-campus or off-campus mental health professionals to determine if indeed, you have depression.
If you find that yes, you do have depressive symptoms, get busy fighting it. Below are some ways to do this.
Researchers are finding that spending time in nature, whether taking a walk or gardening, can help you feel less depressed. There is something about enjoying the beauty of the outdoors that makes us feel more grateful, and happier.
Stroll around the campus, go on a hike, ride your bike on a nature trail. Even if you just go outside and sit on a bench or on the ground, take it all in. Focus on the skies, the trees, the bugs and everything else you see.
If you can, garden. The nutrients in the soil can help improve your mood.
Change Your Diet
It has been discovered that the “happy chemicals” found in your brain are also found in your gut. This means that you have neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in your digestive system. So, what you eat matters.
When you eat healthier, your neurotransmitters are happier and release more happy chemicals. When you eat poorly, the opposite happens, the chemicals are suppressed.
You can start by making small changes in college, like avoiding the midnight pizza run when cramming for an exam. Instead, get sleep and study in the morning when your brain is refreshed.
Get Good Sleep
College students tend to get very little sleep. It may seem like the only way to study for multiple tests, write that paper before it's due, or even hang out with friends and relax. What you may not realize is that sleep is one of the most important things you can do to fight depression.
Proper sleep means you get between seven and eight hours a night of uninterrupted sleep. It means you go to bed without electronics or televisions turned on, the room is dark and quiet. This allows your brain to send messages to your body to restore any ailments or injuries, including depression.
If you are sleeping too much, or most of the day, this is another problem. In this case, it is time to work with a counselor.
You may have already gotten an evaluation, discovered you have depressive symptoms but chose not to go to therapy. That’s okay. But now you realize you need a little extra help in fighting off depression. That’s okay too.
Many students in college face depression and attend therapy to learn additional defenses.
Therapists have many tools and techniques to teach you to fight depression. From positive thinking to medication, they can help you discover what works for you so you can continue succeeding in school.
Get Away from Negative Coping Activities
Some students find ways to cope with their depression that work, but that is also negative and temporary. Using drugs and alcohol is, unfortunately, a popular method of coping with depression. However, drugs and alcohol only make things worse in the long run.
Over time, using drugs and drinking can lead to addiction, legal issues, increased mental health problems, physical health problems, and not finishing college or reaching academic goals.
Join these groups and learn positive ways to cope with depression while in college. You can even get peer support from others who have been able to fight depression in college.
Get to Know Yourself
It is hard to figure out what you need until you get to know yourself, your needs, desires, and abilities. Getting to know yourself allows you to set realistic goals based on your strengths.
Mindfulness techniques are a good way to learn more about you. These can include taking time out of your day to sit quietly and listen to your body. Discover which body parts are feeling good and which ones need help.
Listen to your thoughts and refocus any negative thoughts to positive. Pray or practice spirituality during this time and ask for what you need to succeed. Practice deep breathing so you can provide more oxygen to your brain and body.
Oxygen helps your organs, muscles and other body parts function at their best. Therefore, it is necessary for you to breathe properly. Write in a journal daily, noting the many things for which you are grateful.
Now that you know how to fight depression in college, you can prepare yourself for new experiences with confidence and strive forward on your journey through college. You deserve to have the best college experience, and you can reach all of your academic goals, even if you have depression.
Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers