How Can College Students Overcome Depression? 7 Strategies
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Does your depression make it seem impossible for you to stay engaged in college life? You’re not the only one. Over 44% of college students report experiencing symptoms of depression, which can range from mild to severe.

Depression is a complex issue that can negatively impact your life in many ways, from making it harder to stay on task during class to struggling just to get out of bed. If you’re struggling with depression, know that you’re not alone, and there are resources available to help you through this difficult time. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do to try to overcome some of those symptoms of depression.

7 strategies for managing depression

Depression can make it incredibly difficult to find motivation, even for activities that you know could help you feel better. Here are some small steps you can take to get yourself moving and out of that lonely and isolated mindset:

  • Stay connected — Connecting with loved ones can be challenging when you’re struggling with depression, but spending time with supportive family and friends can help combat feelings of isolation. It’s OK to start small, like with a phone call to a family member or a short coffee date with a friend. 

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, you avoid activities or people you used to enjoy. This is easier said than done, but don’t try to avoid the things you find difficult. The longer you put off going to that class or hanging out with your friends, the harder it will be to make yourself go later on. Facing these situations will make them easier to handle.

  • Stay active — Although exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling depressed, doing some form of exercise regularly can help combat feelings of depression. Additionally, staying active can help address broader health concerns that can result in people with depression. Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial for mild to moderate depression. And even for severe depression, exercise can work alongside other treatments to help you get to a better state of mind. So, even if it’s just a walk around the block, try to get moving.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol — Drugs and alcohol are often used as a way to cope with difficult emotions or mental health symptoms, including depression. However, while they may provide temporary relief or escape, they can actually worsen depression symptoms. Alcohol and many drugs are depressants, which means they can slow down brain function and worsen feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

If you’re taking medication for depression, drugs and alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of these medications, making it harder for them to work. Drugs and alcohol can lead to impulsive behavior and increased risk-taking, which can be dangerous for someone already struggling with depression. If you’re dealing with a substance use disorder, reach out to the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 to get help.

  • Eat well — If you’re dealing with depression, you may not feel like eating regularly, or you may overeat to compensate for how you’re feeling. Changes in appetite and eating habits can lead to nutritional deficiencies and low energy levels. A balanced diet provides essential nutrients that support brain function and mood regulation. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and B vitamins, have been linked to improved mental health. 
  • Maintain a routine — Routines are hard to make and easy to break. This is especially true if you’re dealing with depression. However, instilling healthy habits like a regular bedtime and planned meals can support your overall mental health. Even if you don’t feel like going to bed or making yourself food, it’s easier to maintain that if you have a routine in place.
  • Try meditation — Stress and anxiety can make your symptoms of depression worse. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, prayer and mindfulness can help you lower your stress levels, which may help your depression. 
  • Try something new — While routine is important for day-to-day tasks, try mixing things up once in a while. Volunteering or trying a new activity can activate different parts of your brain. Achieving something new feels rewarding and can improve your overall mental and physical health.

It will take time to figure out what strategies work for you and to incorporate them into your life. Learning how to cope with depression symptoms can be a lifelong process, but prioritizing self-care truly is an accomplishment you can be proud of and a huge step in the direction of healing. You are worth all the effort it takes to be well, and with time and support, you can create a life that is fulfilling, joyful and whole.

Professional help can help you overcome depression

While the above strategies can be helpful for many people, they may not work for everyone, and professional guidance should always be sought. At Lightfully U, we want to offer you the support you need to overcome depression and live your life to the fullest. 

Our Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) is designed specifically with college students in mind. We offer flexible scheduling and virtual care so you can work around your college schedule. Our vIOP is as effective as in-person treatment, with one-on-one sessions and group meetings supervised by our licensed experts.

You don’t have to deal with depression on your own. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team.

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