Dealing with depression in college

Imagine that everything in your life is fantastic. You were accepted into the college of your dreams, came in on an athletic scholarship, aced all of your advanced placement tests, got involved with a co­-ed fraternity, signed up to tutor elementary school students and joined a christian group to make all kinds of new connections at your new dream school. You may think this sounds like the ideal college experience, but for Kathryn Dewitt, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, that was not the case.

An article written by the New York Times tells the tale of the young woman who was under constant pressure because of all the different accomplishments she saw her friends make on social media. All of this stress and pressure caused her to plunge into a deep depression, despite her achievements. While she was able to make it out of her deep-seated state, there are others who are not so lucky.

The expectation to be perfect has caused many college students to commit suicide. This kind of situation may seem easily preventable, but the truth is, it is very hard to completely avoid. College brings on a whole new bag of responsibilities. It also throw students into a sudden independence in which society demands that you figure out what to do with your life in four years, not fail at anything (and if you do fail, you are below everyone else), and maintain a social life and perfect grades. Following all this, you are to land a job with great benefits and a high status.

As the years go on, many college campuses are seeing an increase in the number of students who are entering their counseling centers, due largely to the amount of stress they are facing. While everyone is struggling to promote themselves as flawless, social media does not help with decreasing the standard of perfection. Everything you see on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat , etc., is almost always positive and anything besides positive just seems to indicate weakness or failure. It may seem that college depression is inevitable, but that is not the case. If you are seeking to manage your depression and the stress of college life, here are a few tips to consider.

1. Manage stress effectively

You may feel like you are under a lot of pressure, especially if you have depression. The lack of energy and amount of fatigue you have can greatly affect your motivation if you have a lot to deal with. The secret is, you don’t have to make yourself stressed out. Plan your class schedule according to how much you can handle. If you are taking a few tough classes during the semester, take a fun elective course that is relaxing and doesn’t require a lot of outside work. Your school should offer classes in art, music or beginner level sports classes. If you don’t have time for electives, plan out a fun activity with your friends that you do once or twice a week.

2. Seek help from your school counseling center

Depression can be caused by a number of different life events or situations. Some of those include the death of a loved one or pet, sexual abuse, or even just being away from home for the first time. Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable disclosing information about our personal lives to our friends or even to our own families. Seeing a school counselor can be helpful when it comes to opening up about what is really bothering you. You can also get feedback on different coping methods to use for dealing with your depression.

3. Get involved on campus (come out of your shell)

When you get to college, it’s easy to feel lonely. You’re on your own in this new, big and intimidating atmosphere and all of your friends from high ­school are at a different university. It can be hard to make new friends, even when surrounded by a ton of people that are your age. Getting involved on campus can be a great way to make new friends that share a common interest with you and get you out of your dorm. Even if you feel unsure about a new club or student organization you’re about to join, you never know until you try.

4. Exercise

Along with getting involved on campus and finding an activity you enjoy, exercise is one of the best proven ways to deal with your depression. Keeping a regular exercise schedule can help improve your mood and make you more productive. Exercise releases endorphins from your body that help you improve your mental focus and make you feel happier.

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to stay physically and mentally healthy. A lot of times, people with depression have a hard time falling asleep, or they sleep for too long. Either way, too little or too much sleep can be bad for your health. Always try to stay on a healthy, consistent sleep schedule so that your brain is used to waking up and falling asleep at the same time each night. A good night’s rest can also provide mental focus.

6. Consider medication

Sometimes getting a good night’s rest, staying active, both in extracurriculars and exercising, may not be enough to cure the blues. Consider talking to your doctor and getting a recommendation for a medication that may for you. While some may not take to this option, medication has helped a number of people live with depression and still maintain a happy and healthy life.

7. Talk to a friend

Going to a therapist is important and effective, but talking about your condition with your friends can help as well. Set up a time once a week where you can discuss what has been good/bad about your week or what has been bothering you. Maybe your friend is having the same problems you are and you will have someone to relate to.

8. Know the signs of depression

Whether it is you or someone you know, here are some signs that you should take into consideration, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts over small matters
  • Loss of interest in activities once found pleasurable
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite (eating too little or too much)
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Frequent recurring thoughts of death/suicide

9. Find a support group

While talking to friends or a therapist are usually able to help, schools often offer support groups for those experiencing the same problems as you. That way you will have a network of people who understand what you are going through and everyone can share ideas about coping skills and activities that can help.
10. Keep in touch with friends/family at home.

Going away to college and being separated from those close relationships make a lot of people feel lonely and depressed. While shifting into a new environment is difficult at times, staying in touch with those you care for can help ease the loneliness that you feel your first year. Talking with your loved ones at least once a week can help give you encouragement to go through the school year.

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