Coping Skills That May Help College Students With Depression and Anxiety
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Depression and anxiety are not uncommon among college students. In fact, someone dealing with one can also have the other. Around 60% of people with depression also experience anxiety, and vice versa. But though plenty of college students deal with depression and anxiety, you don’t have to suffer in silence. 

Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, depression or both, coping skills are a valuable way to help you deal with stressful situations and manage your mental health. 

Coping skills for mental health disorders

Frequent use of coping strategies and emotion regulation skills are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety. However, there are many different coping skills for mental health disorders, and there is no universal solution for what will or will not work for you. You may need to try out different coping mechanisms to see which ones offer the best results for your mental health. Here are a few places you can start: 

  • Honor your feelings — Mental health disorders are medical conditions, and the symptoms of those disorders can manifest whether you want them to or not. Instead of carrying guilt about feelings of hopelessness or fear that result from your mental health disorder, allow yourself to acknowledge those feelings and where they are coming from. If you recognize that what you’re feeling is the result of anxiety or depression, it can be easier to view those feelings with compassion instead of criticism or shame.
  • Try to stay active — Exercising with depression or anxiety can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. However, as little as 2.5 hours of exercise a week can make a positive difference in your mental health, which comes out to about 20 to 30 minutes a day. Even a short walk can help boost hormones in the brain responsible for relaxation and good feelings. Try incorporating small bursts of activity into your schedule, such as:
  • A walk around the block
  • Biking or walking to work or a coffee shop instead of driving
  • Gardening
  • Dancing to some favorite songs

Small, simple changes are often easier to make than big adjustments, and you’re more likely to incorporate them into your schedule regularly.

  • Do something you have control over — When the symptoms of your mental health disorder overwhelm you, doing something you can have control over may make your feelings easier to cope with. Try accomplishing a small task such as making your bed, brushing your teeth or washing a few dishes. Gaining control over a small task can give you a sense of accomplishment and offer a temporary distraction from any overwhelming feelings.
  • Get a good night’s rest — Creating a sleep schedule may feel challenging, but depression and sleep problems are often correlated. Not getting enough sleep can increase your symptoms of anxiety and depression, and too much rest may negatively affect your mood. If you’re trying to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, try a few of these tips for optimal rest:
  • Go to bed and get up around the same time every day.
  • Turn off electronics about an hour before bed.
  • Read a book, take a shower or listen to soothing music before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool.

These habits may seem simple, but they can help your body recognize when it’s time to go to sleep.

  • Nourish your body — When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it can be a challenge to eat regular, nutritious meals. However, diet is an important factor in mental health and can influence your symptoms. Whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, lean protein and whole grains are important to help your body function physically and mentally, while caffeine, refined sugars and processed foods may make you feel worse. Easy-to-access healthy food, such as pre-cut veggies and healthy snacks, can make it easier to eat well when you don’t feel up to cooking a full meal.
  • Take a break — If you’re struggling to keep up with your schedule because of anxiety or depression, it can make you feel guilty. Sometimes, though, you just need to let yourself rest and relax. Depression and anxiety are health conditions, so giving your body a physical break can help you take a mental one, too. Here are some suggestions:
  • Watch a comfort TV show or movie.
  • Read a favorite book.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Cook a favorite meal.
  • Listen to music you enjoy.

If you give yourself time to rest, your body has a chance to slow down and recharge instead of wasting time and energy on feeling guilty for not accomplishing more.

You don’t have to talk about your symptoms to receive support, either. Simply knowing someone is there to support you can have a positive effect on your mood.

  • Create good habits — Maintaining a daily routine or regular schedule can provide some structure in your life. It gives you a sense of control and offers you a framework to fall back on when you’re having a bad day. Creating a schedule also gives you the chance to pencil in self-care time or intentional breaks, which can help you stay on top of day-to-day symptoms better.

If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. Lightfully U is here to help you navigate your mental health disorders and learn how to manage symptoms in a healthy way.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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