College is a unique period of your life. You’re on your own—very likely for the first time in your life—yet you are subject to your school’s structure and rules. You have the freedom to make your own decisions, but making the wrong ones can have serious consequences. You have to figure out all of these things on your own, probably without your parents’ input or direction. That can be liberating but also a little bit scary. Depression often sets in, especially by the middle of the year. Returning from visiting home at the holidays leaves many students feeling homesick and lonely. You don’t have to give up on school, you just have to learn some new coping strategies.
1. Improve Your Diet
College students living on campus have access to more food than most have ever had before. It can be easy to load up on pizza, sugary cereal, and French fries—which lead to the dreaded “freshman 15.” But worse than weight gain is the effect of these foods on your moods. Eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods will make it easier to fight depression.
2. Don’t Isolate Yourself
One of the worst aspects of depression is the way it isolates you. You may find yourself withdrawing from friends and social activities, but this will ultimately make you feel worse. Make the effort to spend time with friends and participate in social activities. It may be difficult at first to motivate yourself, but you’ll very likely be glad that you did.
3. Find a Support Group
Depression is a common experience among college students. Many believe that they’re all alone in experiencing depression. For that reason, many college campuses host support groups such as Active Minds. Ask at the counseling center if your campus offers these groups. Finding out that you’re not alone can go a long way toward helping you feel better.
4. Ease Up On Perfectionism
Academic stress is one of the reasons that depression is so rampant among college students. Many students put a lot of pressure on themselves to get perfect grades. While you do want to make the most of your education and perform as well as possible, pursuing a perfect 4.0 GPA may be unrealistic.
5. Get More Sleep
There is always something exciting to do on campus. Between late-night parties and no parents around to set a bedtime, many students find themselves burning the midnight oil. Even if you’re not staying up late having fun, you may be pulling all-nighters to finish papers or assignments instead. Regardless of the reason for staying up late, lack of sleep will take a toll on your physical and mental health.
6. Seek Medical Help
Depression is a medical condition. Although depression can be situational for some people, it can be chronic for others. The chronic type of depression often appears for the first time during the college years. Many people are helped by antidepressant medications. Medical treatment is there for a reason: it helps.
6. Beware of Alcohol
Alcohol use is so widespread on college campuses that it’s practically a cliché. But alcohol use can not only worsen depression, it can cause it to happen in the first place. Unfortunately, college is when many people first develop lifelong problems with alcohol abuse. Cut back on alcohol consumption and see if your symptoms improve.
Most college campuses have onsite counseling centers. Be sure to take advantage of their help if you’re struggling. Nothing you’re going through will be new to them, and they’re ready and willing to get you through tough times.