Coping Strategies for UC College Freshmen With Depression
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Coping Strategies for UC College Freshmen With Depression

Are you a University of California college freshman who is struggling with depression? Depression may make it difficult for you to get ready for your day, let alone complete your daily activities. But you’re not alone: In one UCLA survey, about 12% of college freshmen reported that they often experience depression.

If you’re a UC college freshman or know someone who is, then you may have heard of some common risk factors of depression and/or anxiety during this major life transition:

  • Homesickness
  • Isolation from peers
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor grades
  • Uncertainty about academic path

Each of the risk factors listed above can impact a college freshman’s personal, academic and social well-being. Discussing some specific tips for a college freshman struggling with depression may help improve that person’s quality of life.

7 tips that can help a college freshman who is struggling with depression

Dealing with depression as a college freshman can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. And everyone’s depression experience will be an individual one. For example, you may be feeling a high level of guilt, a need to escape on your phone, and/or the need to isolate yourself from others.

If you’re feeling depressed, here are some tips to consider, as they can help you cope with your depression:

  • Utilize available support systems — According to research, a low level of social support may be associated with a high level of depression. Your support system will vary depending on what resources are available to you. If you’re feeling depressed because of homesickness, you may want to call a loved one just to check in. As a UC student, you should also consider checking out the Center for Student Wellness. It offers activities like journaling, coloring and puzzles. These activities may be beneficial to you because they can allow you to focus on your surroundings rather than on your inner critic. If you need someone to talk to, you can seek either Student-to-Student Peer Counseling (SSPC) or a Wellness Peer Educator (WPE).

SSPCs are student counselors who offer individual counseling sessions. These sessions are free, confidential, and open to walk-ins. You can discuss your experience with depression and even receive a referral for a professional if needed. 

WPEs are students who can provide more information about the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for depression available to college students. If you want support but wish to remain anonymous, consider using Togetherall. Togetherall is a website where you can anonymously discuss your struggles with depression with others who may be going through similar experiences.

  • Identify key triggers and implement coping skills — Triggers are specific events, situations, or circumstances that can provoke or exacerbate symptoms of a mental health condition, such as depression. Triggers can be a variety of things — such as words, people, places. College students who receive a poor grade on a test may experience feelings of guilt and/or not feel motivated to go to class. In this case, the poor grade represents the trigger. If you reflect on your triggers, you can prepare for how you will react to them when they occur again. These reactions may include using coping skills such as listening to music and/or taking a walk. According to research, physical exercises such as walking can help reduce your level of depression. This means that walking and/or doing yoga may be effective coping strategies.
  • Try to get around eight hours of sleep each night — During the transition from high school to college, college freshmen typically experience more independence over their schedule. This independence may seem overwhelming at first, as the high number of available college campus activities rolls over you. You may find yourself trying to cram too much into your schedule, which can make it difficult to get enough sleep. It’s important to develop good sleep hygiene because it may prevent depression from worsening. 

One way to develop good sleep hygiene is to block off your sleep time on your schedule the same way you do your classes. Then, do your best to stick to that schedule. 

  • Eat healthily — Healthy eating habits may help lower your risk of developing depression. Healthy foods can provide you with the energy you need to get through your day. This is particularly important because depression is associated with low energy levels. If you’re unsure where to start, counselors can provide some recommendations

For example, it may be beneficial for you to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals. As you’re walking into your school’s cafeteria or food court, be sure to look at all the available stations before making your decision as to what to eat. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, start with a small change. Small changes may include having a banana with cereal or adding vegetables into an omelet. Also, you can try replacing a go-to snack such as a potato chip bag with a bag of carrots or some other vegetable.

  • Try expressive writing — Expressive writing can reduce levels of anxiety that may occur with depression. For example, try writing for about 20 minutes for three back-to-back days about how you feel regarding an emotional situation. Some benefits of expressive writing for college students include a better ability to objectively look at feelings and process them. In other words, if your feelings are on paper instead of bottled up in your head, then you can clearly identify the emotions you are experiencing. Through this identification process, it may be easier for you to reflect on why you are feeling those emotions and how to cope with them in the future.
  • Use mental health apps — Mental health apps are a convenient way for you to cope with your depression. UC students can access a wide variety of mental health apps from anywhere, which is particularly helpful if you are not feeling motivated enough to change your environment. For example, Lyra is a mental health provider that partners with UC SHIP, and it offers a downloadable app where UC students can access individual therapy and interactive wellness modules specifically geared toward people struggling with depression. In the interactive wellness modules, you can assess your level of depression and monitor any mood changes.
  • Challenge negative self-talk — When individuals consistently engage in negative self-talk, it can lead to a distorted and pessimistic view of themselves and their circumstances. This negative pattern can perpetuate feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Negative self-talk can impact behavior, leading individuals to withdraw from social activities, avoid challenges and engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms, all of which can contribute to the maintenance or worsening of depressive symptoms.

This negative self-talk can turn into a downward spiral: Negative thoughts contribute to negative emotions, which then reinforce the negative thoughts, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

Challenging negative self-talk is an important part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic approaches for depression.

Lightfully U can help treat depression in college freshmen 

Our caring and supportive clinical experts at Lightfully U recognize that reaching out for help with depression is a brave step. We offer virtual mental health care that’s designed to help college freshmen cope with depression and improve their mental health. OUR vIOP is also designed to accommodate students’ busy schedules, and is available via UC students’ health plan.

At Lightfully U, we value holistic treatment and measurable results, which means that we’re here to support you in all aspects of your life. We strive to maintain a mental health community in which everyone is truly seen, heard and valued. 

If you need more information about Lightfully U or how we can help treat your depression, reach out to us today. We’re here to help you take the next steps toward the brightest version of you.

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