One of the greatest temptations in college is to keep everything moving and shaking on the outside with little thought for the toll it might take inside. It’s so easy to get caught up in a flurry of collegiate activity — from coursework to bonding with new friends to feverishly clocking elliptical time and spending every spare moment building a life on campus.
At first, the activity may be a welcome distraction from financial stress, homesickness, fear of failure, and a host of other struggles, but many students find that being busy does not keep them from feeling the roller coaster of emotions that seem to be part of the package deal.
Nearly 12 percent of students reported experiencing depression in the last twelve months before responding to a college health survey in the spring of 2010. Over 18 percent had experienced anxiety, while 27.4 percent experienced stress.
If you find yourself depressed during your college career, here’s how to deal with it:
1. Value what you feel and think.
The first way you can overcome depression as a college student is moving away from the exhausting can-do attitude and mock strength. Try, instead, “It is something. It is how I feel and how I think.” You can make ‘something’ better but what can you do about ‘nothing’? To appear normal, strong, healthy, and cheerful to yourself and to others, it would be easier to check the next thing off your list and convince yourself that all is well, even when it could be better.
One in 10 Americans struggles with depression. More young people are reporting increased levels of stress and depression: the American Psychological Association (APA) has additionally reported that higher numbers of college students are seeking treatment for depression and anxiety, with the number of students on psychiatric medications increasing by 10 percent in 10 years. The APA recommends psychotherapy to help people manage depression by identifying life issues and ways of thinking that contribute to the depression and helping them regain happiness with their lives.
2. It is never too early to seek help.
Do not worry about seeking help too early. It may feel uncomfortable to call someone or go to a counseling center to talk about how stressed you are or the workload you are juggling. But that is exactly what you should get comfortable doing. Do not worry about whether you have been under more pressure before and gotten through it alone, or if this is not as taxing as what someone else has on their plate. The point is, you could use some help.
Make a point of thinking of the services available to you as soon as you can. What are the hotlines in your area? Would you like to chat online to a counselor? Where is the health counseling center on your campus? What are the hours and can you call or email or walk in? Are there any peer counseling groups on campus? Familiarize yourself with your health insurance plan. Understand what mental health counseling services are available to you.
3. Do not let your stress overrun you.
According to the University of Michigan, “academic stress often leads to text anxiety, procrastination, and even depression, and generalized anxiety, which in turn lead to a decrease in grades, added stress.”
You may be under stress from your classwork or due to the course of your academic career. It the stress has arisen over time or suddenly affected you, it can be just as crippling to your day-to-day success. You might feel like you should be able to shoulder it or that you have made a misstep that has caused the stress and you have to bear the byproduct, but stress is not a matter of fault and it is not your personal burden to bear. Seeking help from counseling services or relying on other resources to manage your stress are two options at your disposal.
4. Be organized in a way that fits you.
Effective time management and organization of your class documents will help you minimize your academic stress. Managing your time involves prioritizing the importance of your assignments and planning out your days. The plan should involve flextime so that you can exercise rest properly, and spend time relaxing with friends and by yourself.
How you organize your time and prioritize each day should fit your personality. If you are a visual person, for example, you might use a whiteboard to jot down lists and map out your week. The most important reminders might also be reiterated in a calendar application in your phone. If you do better with auditory reminders, you may use a clock for more than a morning wake-up alarm. You can set it to remind you when to head to your next class or to let you know when free time is up and it is time to get back to your books.