From the early long classes to the late-night studies, college can be a student’s worst nightmare. Many students get low test and exam scores often due to their inability to cope with the overwhelming workload and the stress, which eventually sends them down the tunnel of depression. College depression can be a significant thorn in the flesh that affects students emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and even physically.
Did you know that the WHO reported that depression is one of the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide? Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but over 260 million people living with depression worldwide.
Yes, it’s that serious!
So, what do I mean by depression in college?
Generally, depression is an emotional disorder that causes an individual to feel sad, anxious or indifferent. But as the name implies, depression in college is the depression that students experience while in college. College is a whole new world for young teens walking their way through adulthood.
College students are especially vulnerable to depression due to the various new challenges, anxieties, and pressures they are exposed to. Some college students have never had to be away from their families or guardians for a very long time. And they’ve always been living with the luxury of not having to take responsibility for themselves or make the difficult decisions that affect them.
Students while in college face the challenge of adapting to the new lifestyle, long work and study hours, new friends, classmates and roommates. Students have a hard time adjusting to the school culture and connecting with new people. Often, the only intimate and formal relationship most college students were exposed to before college was their family.
Things can pretty much get harsh and toxic very quickly if a student cannot cope with the stress of dealing with college life. It can hinder students’ academic and social performance, their ability to study and work, socialize, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What are the signs of depression?
From sadness to anxiety and indifference, depression can take the shape of multiple signs. Sometimes, it may just be INSOMNIA, irritation, frustration, withdrawal, anger, pain, loneliness, or mood swings.
And depression can cause bipolar disorder in extreme cases. Several cases of suicide have also been linked to depression. For instance, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death in persons between the ages of 15 and 34.
If left unattended, you should know that it can lead to high-risk behaviours like substance abuse, crime, and unsafe sex.
How to cope with depression
Yeah, with all I’ve said so far, you can guess that coping with depression can be a little bit difficult. But fortunately, there are various ways available for you to cope with depression and concentrate on your studies.
As a college student, you can take these action steps in combatting depression.
#1) Talk to someone: this is the first point of action for a college student suffering from depression. It would help if you didn’t keep your condition to yourself, and you need to talk to someone. After all, a problem shared is a problem half-solved.
Here, you may reach out to a family member or trusted friend, or a campus counselor. If you cannot reach these set of people, you may also consider contacting your career counselor, a trusted lecturer, or you may book an appointment with a therapist. And it’s easier to do these nowadays, especially with your internet-connected SMARTPHONE.
After diagnosing the specific symptoms, your therapist, psychiatrist or doctor can prescribe medications to treat your depression.
And in extreme cases, when you’re feeling suicidal, please contact a campus counselor or therapist. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK or other local campus emergency services in some countries like the United States.
#2) Educate yourself: You are in the best position to understand yourself and know. It would help if you took it upon yourself to recognize when you’re in distress and the things that trigger depression in you. Also, educate your friends and family about depression as it’ll help handle depression as one who is in control and not as a victim.
Make enquiries about the resources available to students suffering from depression at your school and in the community. You can find information concerning depression at your student health centre or counselling unit office or on the school’s online library.
You should also seek support from student support groups or be proactive in joining mental health awareness advocacy clubs and creating awareness campaigns. While these societies will help you understand more about your depression, they can also help reduce the stigma associated with students experiencing depression.
#3) Self-care (Sleep and Eat): You should also take care of your health by getting enough sleep and eating nutritious food. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, as they will not solve your problems but may add to it.
Young adults require an average of 7-9 hours of sleep per day to stay healthy. Though being a college student, you may not have the luxury to spend that long in bed; you should sometimes make exceptions to that during some weekdays or throughout weekends. Doing this will have long term benefits for your health and help you cope with depression. You may also want to take some time off SOCIAL MEDIA, to avoid insufficient sleep time and unnecessary pressure that may lead to low self-esteem.
Also, please maintain a healthy diet while in college. Don’t starve yourself or resort to malnutrition because you want to get early to class and study all day. Always eat FOOD RICH IN HEALTHY NUTRIENTS like carbohydrates and vitamins, at least twice a day. And don’t think energy and HANGOVER DRINKS and snacks will make up for it.
#4) Exercise: Exercise can help release tension and build positivity. It’s an excellent way to take your mind off the pressures of academic and extracurricular activities while in college.
So it would help if you dedicated some time to physical exercises based on your schedule. Even 30 minutes of exercise can go a long way in improving your day. Whether it’s YOGA OR GYM, find a routine that you like and can maybe invite your friends to join.
You may also resort to meditation and reflection. And this may be in the form of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or other mindfulness exercises. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mindfulness therapies can help treat depression and reduce relapse rates. So, such breathing exercises can help depressed students get back on track.
#5) Have fun: Have fun?? You may be wondering how this will help you cope with depression. But believe me when I tell you it does in every bit since depression makes you sad and prevents you from enjoying those happy moments. You may want to take back some of that happiness by having some fun of your own.
You can dedicate some hours in a day to call your loved ones, family, and friends who may be kilometres or miles away. The exciting part is that you don’t need to be 100% happy to have fun. You can have fun in your way and the smallest of things.
It may just be a friendly prank on a roommate or a surprise visit to an old friend or kin. Or you are playing a game or watching one of your favorite TV shows. Just do something that makes you laugh and stay positive.
#6) Let go of the burden: Sometimes, we are the architects of our depression, and we sometimes know the cause. And it can be challenging to let go of the load. But at some point, we have to let go of the burden so that we can progress.
So, I’ll advise you not to take on so much extracurricular activities, but prioritize your activities. I can understand that sometimes you need to work those two jobs and meet those deadlines while preparing for tests. But there’s only so much you can do all by yourself. And if you can’t find someone to help share that burden, then you’ve got to let go before you break down.
But it’s okay if you can manage your time correctly, that the workload feels less overwhelming. You can do this by organizing your daily and weekly activities and setting schedules and reminders to keep track of your activities. And you should ensure you create time for sleep, food, fun and study regardless of the workload.
Don’t overburden yourself; juggling lectures with extra courses, extracurricular, work, family and social activities. Sometimes they can be overwhelming and can affect your productivity levels in all activities. If you’re in this kind of situation, you should consult your academic or career advisor.
So, why don’t you take responsibility for your journey to recovery?
Ultimately, if left untreated, depression in college can lead students down a dark and scary path. Those active steps students take to cope with depression is what separates survivors from victims.