How Can a College Student Cope With Their Depression? 7 Ideas
Why you can trust Lightfully Behavioral Health?

Lightfully’s professional culture is designed to keep everyone connected, motivated and nutured. Why is this so important? We believe the way we treat our employees is how we show up for clients – through encouragement, honesty, and compassion.

Clinically Reviewed 
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some of our previous articles talk about the common experience of encountering depression for the first time while you’re away at college. As more people seek treatment for mental health problems and start to understand what good mental health looks like, these topics are slowly losing their stigma. If you didn’t grow up in a family or a culture where conversations about mental health felt safe, though, navigating it for the first time can be hard, especially for students balancing school, work and social connections. 

Developing skills to manage depression takes time, and not everything that works for others will work for you. It’s important to be patient and persistent and to never stop advocating for your mental health. We recommend exploring your options and taking a well-rounded approach that includes lifestyle adjustments, therapy, and medication when necessary.

This article will cover some things you can do to cope with depression while you’re at school. It takes some experimentation, and your college campus can be a good setting for learning how to manage intense emotions.

Is there a quick fix for college students feeling depressed?

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for depression because everyone’s experiences with it are different. But with the help of your doctor, a therapist, and a strong support system of friends and family, you can figure out what works best for you. 

The first things your doctor is likely to recommend are therapy and working on healthy habits. Getting enough sleep at night, eating a balanced diet and moving your body every day are all things you should be able to do at school. Your college or university may also have a counseling center so you can see a therapist without leaving campus. Virtual therapy is a great time-saver for busy students, too. Our virtual Lightfully U program is free for University of California students. Once you’ve started therapy and formed some healthy habits, then you can have a discussion about medication. 

7 strategies to help you manage depression while in college

Booking those appointments and finding a therapist you like takes time. So, what can you do in the meantime? Challenge yourself to take care of your health the same way you’d help out a friend if they were sick. Find some affirmations that make you feel good and say them in front of your mirror or make an audio recording of your own personal pep talk. It might feel goofy at first, but if it makes you feel better, isn’t that worth it?

Here are seven things you can do while you’re away at school to improve your mood and shake your depression:

  • Start a new hobby 

We’re not telling you to join a club or a sports team, but it’s important that you find something that makes you happy, whether you’re good at it or not. Get a coloring book with pretty designs or cute animals, or find a soccer ball and kick it around. Maybe you can try to learn a new craft, like origami. The important thing is to get wrapped up in something during your downtime — with absolutely no pressure. You might distract yourself into feeling better.

  • Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine

Mindfulness refers to the meditation practice of looking at your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It can help you develop emotional resilience by tuning into the present moment again and again. This is another place where perfection isn’t expected. It’s called a practice because that’s all it is. You can start with simple breath awareness meditation, find something fun on a meditation app or you can add some movement by trying yoga. The possibilities are endless.

  • Stay connected with friends from home 

Missing home can definitely be a contributing factor in depression among college students. Even if that’s not true for you, getting in touch with someone outside of campus can get you out of constant school mode. Catch up with a few friends from high school and see how they’re doing. Or call a parent or family member. 

  • Face your fears (safely) 

What would you be doing if you weren’t feeling depressed? Maybe you would socialize more or explore the campus. Finding a cozy coffee shop where you can do homework or read can always be fun. Maybe you’ve thought about going to club meetings? Depression can make you feel bad about yourself, especially if you’re avoiding something out of fear. If something is coming to mind for you, let a friend know you’re feeling anxious and ask them to do it with you, because they might have the exact same fear. It’s also important to set realistic goals while practicing self-compassion.

  • Move your body 

You don’t have to use the e-word (exercise) if you don’t like it. You don’t have to put on any special clothes or shoes; just do what makes you feel good.  You can try dancing in your room, getting outside for a walk or playing a VR game that gets you moving. Anything that gets your blood pumping should work. Just try to get a little movement in every day.

  • Take care of your health

Again, those healthy habits can go a long way to improve your mood. Find some healthy foods you like and make sure you’re getting eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Even on the weekends. Diet and sleep both play vital roles in your emotional regulation that can be impacted by depression.

  • Spend time with a friend who accepts you as you are 

You don’t have to tell them you’re feeling depressed if you don’t want to, but sometimes, just being around another person is all it takes to feel a little better. It’s important to know some people who won’t judge you when you’re not feeling your best. Invite a new friend to play video games with you or maybe you can get lunch or coffee with someone on the weekend. If your school has a student rec center, go check that out. Socializing with new people might be awkward, but only until you get to know each other.

Get your BA (being awesome) in beating depression at Lightfully U

If you’re looking for a treatment program that’s a bit more thorough than outpatient therapy, Lightfully U could be just what you need. All of our programs are based on process-based therapy (PBT), which is a holistic and proactive way of learning how to manage the core processes you need for mental wellness. You’ll learn skills for managing your emotions, thoughts, behaviors and relationships. 

It all takes place online and you’ll get your own individual therapist as well as daily group sessions where you can meet other students who are also working on their mental health. 

If you’re interested, one of our admissions counselors can help you get started. And feel free to contact us with any questions. You can get through this, and we’re here to help.

Connect with Admissions

Do I have Major Depressive Disorder?

Related Content