Depression affects a staggering 44 percent of college students, so it’s only normal to occasionally encounter a case of the blues during your studies. Movies like Animal House and Van Wilder provide an inaccurate depiction of college life. It’s actually a grind since day in and day out you’re faced with constant demands. You’re likely to be lonely being on your own for the first time with a support system that’s further away than its ever been. Fortunately there is help and here are a few tips to get you started.
Know thy enemy: There’s a lot of information floating around but much of it is myth. Particularly pervasive among young males is the notion that mental health problems make you weak. Depression has a physiological, genetic, and environmental etiology. You can take an individual with neurotransmitter problems and fulfill his or her every desire, but a depressed mood still can set in. Think of Richard Cory from Edward Arlington Robinson’s famous poem. On the other hand an individual with a strong constitution can be worn down by a string of bad luck. Depression can also come about as a side effect of medication. Ritalin is often used to treat ADHD symptoms but it can bring upon depression. Depression itself can cause a loss of concentration and performance in many activities. This feedback cycle serves to show just how easily a college student can get saddled with the condition.
Seek help: Depression inventories are available online and are a good way to decide if you ought to talk to a specialist. Many colleges have a clinic that you can go to talk with a staff psychologist. It’s amazing how unburdening yourself can free you up to take action in healthy ways. You’ll learn that your circumstances are not entirely your fault and come up with coping mechanisms that work specifically for you. Many people with depression have an orientation towards life called an internal locus of control. This means that they tend to see themselves as someone who can affect great changes both personally and in the wider world. While this tends to make them high achievers the reality of the illness is perhaps more crushing for them. They might feel a weakness to which they’re unaccustomed or anxiety that they cannot express.
If you’re generally skittish about the mental health profession forums and support groups are available anywhere you look. A cursory search will reveal groups nearby whose members are facing many of the same circumstances.
Stay active: It’s noble that you want to maintain your 4.0 GPA but consider the price of your perfection. College is a time when you can explore and figure out the person you really are. Get involved with diverse activities and different social arenas to boost your mind’s depression resistance. When you base your entire sense of well-being on your grades the occasional bad mark is devastating. What if you have other sources of enrichment such as the band, the newspaper, or student government? Those three activities might raise your spirits enough to prevent depression from taking hold.
Meet new friends as even the biggest introvert can only benefit from getting out of their dorm! Sometimes just being around people can stop you from feeling a sense of isolation. If your parents are harrying you about studying all of the time be assertive with them. It can be hard for students whose parents have traditional values but it’ll be better for everyone if you’re assertive about what you need.
Monitor video game use: This must sound like heresy if you’re an avid gamer but mindlessly grinding your Night Elf isn’t helping your brain’s health. The mind becomes fit and able to more easily defend itself from depression when you vary your routine. Do something each day to boost your self-worth. Video games can mask depression and staring at a screen constantly is characteristic of the avoidance behavior so common in depression sufferers.
Take classes you like: There’s a reason this is the last one on the list. Though it sounds ridiculous one of this author’s favorite courses was Introduction to Opera. Another memorable one was a course on the Puritans. The first provided exposure to stories that would’ve otherwise been unfamiliar and the second introduced the concept of a living history. Never in your life will so much knowledge come so easily but you have to take risks to enjoy it. It’s easiest to cope with depression when your education means something to you. Just like a farmer keeps his land producing with crop rotation a detour into the byways of art history can keep your mind fertile.