Students And Depression: How to Cope
Friends and relationships.
Couple it with the fact that you no longer have the safety net of home to lean on — at least, not as much — and it’s enough to force anyone’s hand. With the end of the semester near, we figured it would be a good chance to pause and offer some advice on how to deal with these pressures.
If you feel that life is getting to be just a bit too much, here are some coping tips that should help.
Students and Depression, Coping Mechanism No. 1: Admit There’s a Problem.
Life can be tough on college students and depression only makes matters worse when it goes unchecked. It’s the sort of thing that will steamroll into failing grades, substance abuse, and even life-threatening situations.
And it doesn’t have to be that way.
You have friends. You have teachers. You have access to mental health resources. Take advantage of that before a minor thing becomes something major.
Tip No. 2: Talk to a Friend.
It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to rush off to the doctor and get on a medication at the first sign of stress. After all, naturally dealing with issues is the ideal way to go.
But don’t let your concern for “jumping the gun” keep you from discussing the issue with a trusted friend. Find someone you trust. Someone who will keep your secrets close to the vest. Tell them what you’re dealing with, and see if they have any advice on how they handled it.
Maybe it’s a difficult professor or falling behind in your grades too late in the semester. Perhaps you need to audit a class and have never done it before. Maybe finances have you down. Your friends always are the best place to start with the unique challenges of college life.
No. 3: Seek Professional Help.
We don’t want to go too far into an article on students and depression, though, without emphasizing the importance of seeking professional help when you know there’s a problem that you simply cannot deal with on your own.
There are medications that can help you with anxiety and depression, and most of them are relatively inexpensive — yes, even for a college student — so don’t be ashamed of going there if you feel like things aren’t improving.
Keep in mind that depression takes different forms and different levels of severity. Some people won’t go to the doctor because they don’t feel sad or angry, so they think they’re not depressed when they actually are.
In other words, you don’t have to be sad or angry. Depression is a completely different beast. It often translates as emotional numbness and indifference.
No. 4: Find Time to Work on You.
Now that we have urged you to seek professional help for legitimate depression, let’s focus the remainder of our efforts on what you can control. One of the biggies: self-improvement.
Carve out some time for yourself no matter how many obligations that you have. If you love to draw, make time to do it. If you love watching movies or Netflix or YouTube, make sure that a sliver of your schedule allows it to take center stage. Do it without guilt. You’re a human being, and you deserve time where you’re in control.
No. 5: Be More Protective of Your Time.
Many students find themselves slinking into depression because they haven’t learned how to say no. Instead they fear missing out on an opportunity or making enemies, and allow that fear to dictate their decision-making. This isn’t healthy.
Students have to learn to say no if they’re going to take back control of their time. By doing so, they’ll find depression is a more manageable challenge.
No. 6: Manage It Wisely.
A large contributing factor with students and depression is the feeling that you don’t have enough time to do the things you need to do. The encroaching desperation and hopelessness that comes from this feeling is because you haven’t learned to manage your time wisely.
You only get so many functional hours in a day. Let’s say that you know you’re no good for anything if you don’t get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Well, your day is down to 16 hours, but then you’ve got to get ready, and that takes another hour.
Now we’re down to 15. Subtract another two hours for eating (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and you’ve only got 13 hours per day to do the things that you have to do and the things that you want to do.
Both are essential. So what does your class-load look like? How much time can you afford to give it?
You can see how unpacking your life in such a manner allows you to allocate your time into the areas where it needs to go. Take time every day to examine your schedule, and you’ll find that you can make those hours go a lot further.
No. 7: Get Your Finances in Order.
Finances are hard when you’re a student, and they don’t get any easier as an adult. The best thing that you can do is to never get ensnared in the credit card trap. And if you do have credit cards, never spend more than you can pay off at the end of a month.
If you think you can spare the extra time, get a part-time job or a work-study position on campus. Don’t accept more in loans than you need to live on, and especially don’t do it if it creates more expenses than necessary.
College is more expensive than ever, and in order to be competitive, you have to do more of it than you used to. (A bachelor’s degree is now the bare minimum.) You need to learn how to manage expenses from the outset and take advantage of earning opportunities as they present themselves.
Of course, your main priority should be setting a budget. Make a list of all the necessities. Add those up. Make a list of income streams. Do your “living” on what’s left over when you subtract the two. No one starts with deficit spending, so make the tough decisions to eliminate expenditures that aren’t necessary.
No. 8: Deal with Your Homesickness.
There is no shame in feeling homesick. If you long for the comforts of home and the family you left behind, make sure to keep those connections open. Even though there may be more miles between you, a texting session or social media chat can go a long way in assuaging the sense of loss, at least until the end of the semester when you can go home and reconnect face-to-face.
No. 9: Work Out.
Working out triggers endorphins that allow you to cope with many of the elements that exacerbate depression. A workout routine does not have to be rigorous, and it doesn’t have to occur at the same time every day.
Look over your schedule to determine the best times on each day to work in some level of physical exertion. All you really need to feel the mental health benefits is 30 minutes per day. If you can do more than that, great. But everyone has 30 minutes, and that can rejuvenate the brain in a way that becomes a force multiplier for productivity.
No. 10: Routinely Prioritize.
Priorities can change from month-to-month and even day-to-day. You should routinely schedule time to reexamine. Move things around. Make lists. Keep track of what you’ve accomplished as well as what’s changed along the way. And never miss an opportunity to cross off those accomplishments!
No. 11: Inventory Your Resources, and Don’t Wait to Use Them.
You have more resources to deal with depression than you think. As we’ve already mentioned, there are friends who know exactly what you’re going through. There are professors with open doors as well. They’ve seen these issues with other students, and most of them empathize and are willing to work with you if you show a level of caring and effort that rises above other classmates.
Your campus also probably has free mental health resources and personnel that you can rely on. Sit down and list all of the people who could or would be willing to talk with you. Then, reach out and share your experiences with them.
No. 12: Remove Damaging Relationships.
Relationships can feel exhilarating when we’re in good ones. But we can often fool ourselves into believing that any relationship is good, or that good relationships are that way all the time.
You really need to put all of yours — both friendships and romantic relationships — under the microscope and determine if they have your best interests at heart. Do they allow you the space to be yourself and deal with the priorities that you have set?
If not, then you need to get rid of them or minimize the time allotted. Damaging relationships are far worse than being alone. Don’t believe the lie that they’re not.
No. 13: Have Something to Look Forward To.
A good way of staying on top of your depression is to not be so mired in the pressures of now that you fail to plan ahead. Giving yourself something to look forward to is just the right fuel for those moments when you think you can’t go on.
We suggest setting short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
The short-term goals get you through what you’re working on right this minute. It could be a game on your phone or an episode of a favorite TV series just as soon as you come to a stopping point.
The medium-term goals get you past a milestone of pressing but not immediate importance. Think: I’ll buy myself this-or-that if I can make at least a B on the test at the end of this chapter.
The long-term goals: where you’re going on Spring Break or how you’ll spend your summer vacation.
No. 14: Stop Pursuing Perfection.
You are not perfect. We are not perfect. The people you are trying to please are not perfect. So stop treating perfection like it’s some achievable idea. It’s not, and you’ll never get there.
Once you realize that, you’re in a position to deal with everything else and focus on being the best version of you. If you do fail, learn from what went wrong and use it to press forward. Don’t obsess over it.
While the problems associated with students and depression may never go away, you can learn to deal with them in healthier and more constructive ways by starting with the tips on this list. We hope the remainder of your semester will be everything you hope. Now, it’s your turn. What are some of the most effective coping mechanisms that you have found for dealing with depression? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Anxiety and Depression Association of America]