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10 Tips to Avoid Begin of the Year Depression in College

September 07, 2015 - Posted to Study

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Battling Depression at the Beginning of the School Year

You are starting college and your parents have just dropped you off. You are excited to be finally on your own with no adult directions, rules, and such. Or, you are a returning students having spent the summer at home with all of your old friends – what fun! Now you are here, and the realities of college life begin to creep in – you are away from family and friends; the work is getting hard; and you are beginning to feel somewhat helpless and alone.

Fall Depression is Common – You’re Not Crazy

The first thing you need to realize is that what you are feeling is pretty normal. Research shows that about 50% of college students suffer depression each fall as they begin or return to college life. They feel lonely and overwhelmed by the amount of coursework; their family and friends are so far away; they wonder if going back home might be the better choice (homesickness).

In the vast majority of instances, this period of depression passes, if students will take some proactive steps that are proven to work for the normal mild-to-moderate depression that can set in.

Ten Tips – They Do Work

1. Physical Exercise

You don’t have to join a gym or run 5 miles a day! What you do have to do is get up and move. Mild physical exercise releases endorphins – those “feel good” chemicals that tell you brain that things are “good.” So, if you will get out of that dorm room, walk around campus, ride a bicycle (even better), or join an intramural sports program. If you don’t want a “group” thing, then take up swimming.

2. Don’t Isolate Yourself

When you are depressed, you lack energy and you just don’t feel like being around other people. You would rather stay in your room, possible skip classes, and have your own “pity party.” While you may not feel like it at all, you have to get out of that room. Get to class, get to meals, go to the library, go shopping – anything that will get your out and around other people, even if they are strangers.

If you are anxious and depressed about getting behind in your coursework assignments, one of the best things you can do is join a study group. Here’s what that will do. It will get you around other people, and it will focus you on your assignments. Often, depression comes about from being behind, but it also keeps you from being motivated to do anything about it. A study group can be that motivator.

3. Go to the Campus Counseling Center

 They won’t think you are crazy. They deal with young people in your situation daily. Just talking with someone else can be a huge relief of the “burden” you are carrying, and those counselors can really make some great suggestions for other things you can try.

4. Love Your Technology

Many years ago, keeping in touch with family and old friends was not so easy to do. There were pay phones in dorms, and you could maybe call your parents “collect” once a week. And forget about calling your friends. It was just too expensive. How lucky you are to have email, Facebook, texting, and unlimited calling phone plans. You can stay connected even if you can be together in person. There’s also Skype, which is great for actually seeing family members and friends.

Chances are, many of your friends who are at different schools are going through just what you are right now. Being able to talk about it with each other is just huge.

5. Regular Sleep – It’s Important

Sleep is something that many college kids just don’t get enough of. And it is hard when assignments are due and late nights just keep happening one after another. Better to ask for some extensions and get to bed than to deprive yourself of sleep – it just exacerbates the depression that you are already experiencing. So do your best to have regular night sleeping hours. And, despite the temptation, do not sleep during the day.

6. Eat Right

Yes, poor diet can worsen depression, especially one that is heavy on sugar and starch. You will tend to get some energy for a while, but you will the “crash” and the depression can increase. Watch your diet, please!

7. Join a New Club or an Organization

This may be the last thing you want to do right now, but you should force yourself to do it. You will get out, be around others, and have the opportunity to become involved in some social activities.

8. See Psychiatrist if Your Depression is Bad and Not Improving

There is no stigma to this anymore. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication which may really help pull you out of this, only temporarily, of course. But the medication will allow you to function, to get to class, to develop some new relationships, etc. Once those patterns of behavior are “cemented,” then you can gradually get off that medicine.

9. Get a part-Time Job

This will certainly get you up and out. Even if it is only 10-15 hours a week, you will be around others, forced to put on a “smiley face,” and do your job. When you get the idea that others at work are counting on you to make your shift, and you will not want to let them down!

10.Volunteer with Less fortunate

Part of depression is feeling that things are just meaningless. This is when you need to get to a homeless shelter, an orphanage, or a soup kitchen, to see what hopelessness really looks like and do something meaningful to combat it. Plus, as you do good for others, those wonderful endorphins are going to flood your brain again.

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