For the record, you should never settle for this kind of advice. Depression is a chemical imbalance of the brain – but it’s totally treatable.
Many college students, who are battling depression, fail to understand why they feel so empty, lost, or worthless. Perhaps they lose interest in the passions that they once had, or they might even have suicidal thoughts.
Depression is a challenging illness to deal with, let alone function with day to day.
The fact that you’re reading up on this page is progress in itself. It shows that you’re looking for helpful strategies to help fight depression.
Side note: you can rest assured that we won’t bore you with worthless clichés like; “people have it worse.”
There was a time when depression was thought to predominately only hit those in their 40’s or 50s. It was labeled as a mid-life crisis.
Now, more and more research has developed, which explains why 18-24-year-olds are susceptible to depression.
Meg Jay, a psychologist, and author (we know, impressive) stated that the period between 18-29 is filled with loss. Whether it’s friendships or partners. It could even be a dream career or travel plans – it’s a time when reality seems to come sinking in on us.
Another possibility is more biology focused – scientists have shown that the frontal lobe (the part responsible for planning and reasoning) doesn’t develop until we hit our mid-twenties.
However, by the time we’re just touching our 20s, we’re forced to make so many important decisions – which understandably make us feel anxious. Other reasons include binge drinking and sleep schedules.
We’re not stating all this to make you feel like you’re sat in another lecture. It’s always interesting and useful to know what exactly is happening with your brain, and why. Once you find what may be “triggering” you, you can begin fighting.
There’s very little evidence to suggest that, if you suffer from depression in your 20s, it will recur later in life – especially when appropriately addressed.
With this in mind, here are our top 15 tips for fighting depression at college.
1. Reach out
This really is one of the most important things that you can do to help yourself. We understand entirely why this might be a daunting task – society doesn’t exactly welcome us expressing our emotions with open arms.
Try to forge stronger ties with those that you love. Even just knowing that you have these to count on can make a big difference.
Generally speaking, if you reach out to somebody and they aren’t supportive, do you really want them in your life?
You can also find support groups online or in your community. Not everybody has secure connections with family or friends, that doesn’t mean you’re alone, though.
2. Sort out your sleeping pattern
Alright, we know you’re in college – you’ll be wondering what a sleeping pattern even is? Are they even real?
From late nights in the library, early lectures, and even later nights partying, your sleeping schedule will be a bit confusing, to say the least.
Depression also doesn’t help with sleep problems. You may be suffering from insomnia or disturbed sleep – making you feel exhausted all the time.
Our top tips are to turn off all electronics an hour before going to bed and opt for a nice book instead. No, don’t read one of your study textbooks (although, these might be yawn-worthy).
Don’t use your bed for any work, either. We know that writing essays out in your bed is super comfy, but it prevents your brain from associating your bed with relaxation.
Multiple studies have found that exercise can protect you from depression and anxiety.
We highly recommend twenty minutes of high-intensity cardio every morning, just for a really positive boost of energy. You can find great workouts on YouTube.
You know, getting into strength training and the gym can be an excellent mood lifter. You never know, it could also help you gain valuable connections with some gym buddies – a win-win situation.
4. Practice mindfulness
Don’t skip past – we promise it’s not a load of drivel. Mindfulness genuinely has scientific backing and can reduce symptoms of depression.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present – something a lot harder than you might imagine. Just try it right now…it’s an art.
It isn’t healthy to just surround yourself with meaningless distractions. Sometimes, sitting there and being present, even with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, can be useful.
Yoga is another great way to reduce anxiety and depression. Some psychologists have even suggested that meditation can be just as effective as taking antidepressant medication. Also, did you know how much strength yoga actually takes – Dylan Werner, a profession yogi, proves this.
5. Have you tried herbs?
We know, it sounds like something a middle-aged woman would say to you. Sorry to break it to you, they might just be onto something.
Of course, we won’t lie to you and say they’re practical ways to fight depression, but they can help to prevent mild depressive symptoms.
Take a trip to your local vitamin store and pick out some herbal supplements.
Ginseng, Lavender, and Saffron are supposed to be the best. You could also find some online – just ensure it’s from a reputable provider.
6. What’s your diet like?
This brings us nicely onto our next point; your diet. Well, as a college student, your diet is probably the brunt of a few jokes. Yeah, maybe you’re living off Ramen Noodles and warmed up pizza – you wouldn’t be alone.
There are many reasons to avoid having a diet like this, regardless of how inexpensive it is. It just isn’t worth it, especially when it comes to your mental and physical health.
Scientists have found links between certain nutrients and alleviating depression. For instance, vitamin D, probiotics, omega-3s, and complex carbohydrates can all, allegedly, fight symptoms of depression.
7. Get help at University
If you’re really struggling, express your concerns to your University. They won’t judge you, and they would have experienced it many times.
They might point you towards student services or counseling, or they might offer other forms of help.
Even something as simple as getting an extension on a deadline can make a big difference. Don’t worry about asking for some help, especially from lecturers. They’ll understand, and want to help.
Also, Universities are very much aware of the growing problem of student depression. They want you to express your concerns and troubles.
8. Soak up nature
This one might seem a bit too simple to be effective. However, spending time in nature has been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression. Perhaps it is the fresh air, the absence of technology, or vitamin D – whatever it is, we’re supporting it.
There’s actually a word for it – ecotherapy. In Japan, a form of ecotherapy is a custom called “forest bathing,” which essentially is spending time with trees. How charming. It’s supposed to reduce the stress hormone, improve overall feelings of wellbeing, and boost the immune system.
Many college campuses are located in stunning areas, with access to fantastic hiking trails. Perhaps after one of your classes, you should make your way to the trees and indulge in some forest bathing.
You might find that this, amongst other healthy practices, has a significant impact on your mental health.
9. Reconsider the alcohol
We get it, drinking has become synonymous with college culture. While drinking and drug use in college, even irresponsibly, is incredibly common – you still need to understand the negative impacts it might be having.
In fact, alcohol abuse and substance abuse go hand in hand with depression. Students who are experiencing depressive episodes should consider avoiding alcohol and drugs.
It’s a vicious cycle, though. Many who are dealing with depression turn to alcohol and drugs to “take their mind off things,” but this is a temporary solution, that has adverse effects in the long-term.
The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a survey which found that 81.7% of students that has poor mental health or depression, also engaged in alcohol use.
Over time, substance abuse will only worsen your symptoms, and should never be seen as a healthy or productive way to fight your depression.
10. Create a routine
Again, at University, a routine is hard to create. Especially with uncertain classes, unexpected deadlines, and a hectic social life. The abundance of new, exciting activities can really throw any routine out the window.
So, we say, try to wake up at the same time every day. Regardless of the day.
Wake up, complete a cardio exercise, and eat a nutritious breakfast. Try to complete some household chores and admin tasks. Things like laundry, washing dishes, and answering emails.
This will get your day off to a fantastic start and productively kickstart the day.
11. Set healthy boundaries
A common symptom of depression is guilt. We can feel guilty for saying no or feel worthless. In college, we especially feel the pressure to say “yes” to everything. We fear not living the best years of our lives.
Set yourself healthy boundaries, and learn to say no every now and then. Only commit to things that fill you with joy, don’t say yes to everything and anything.
We recognize that we can only do so much, and agreeing to everything (even when we don’t feel up to it), won’t benefit us.
If the FOMO is too much to handle, take a much-needed break from Snapchat stories and Instagram stories.
12. Face your fears
Fears can keep your depression in place, and so it’s vital that you work towards facing your fears.
Let’s take a look at common fears, that many college students with depression seem to have:
“He’s so afraid to be cheated on again, he doesn’t allow himself to get close to anyone.”
“He’s afraid of failure.”
“He’s afraid of criticism.”
“He’s afraid people will judge him if he opens up.”
Fear is often irrational and completely blown out of proportion. It’s one of those moments that, we dread doing, but then wonder why we were ever worried in the first place.
13. Try not to procrastinate
At University, especially in the age of technology, procrastination is rife. However, if your symptoms of depression include fatigue, this can make procrastination even more tempting.
Procrastination can fuel depression by increasing stress, guilt, and worry. For this reason, you should set deadlines and manage your time adequately. This is where our point about routines come in handy.
Getting help from trained, licensed mental health professionals could be the best option for you.
These will know the best ways to relieve your symptoms, and can also effectively identify some of the causes.
Many colleges actually provide on-campus counseling centers for students, often with no cost. You should absolutely make the most of this.
15. Look into medication
This is our final point because we don’t want to provide you with misinformation on medication.
We suggest talking to a primary care provider and listening to their suggestions regarding depression.
For severe forms of depression, your doctor might decide medication could be helpful. You should always read the side effects and all information on medicines, before taking them.
We hope you find this helpful. Remember that whatever you’re feeling, is treatable and you don’t have to suffer alone (That’s our only cliché).
If you or anybody you know is in a crisis, please reach out for help. Crisis hotlines are confidential, free, and available 24.7.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.
National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP.