For many young adults depression can be a serious issue. This is particularly true for those who increasingly burdened by the challenges of higher education, the stress of working while attending university, dealing with finances, or even feeling isolated after moving away from home. But young adults are not always equipped to know when they are dealing with the symptoms of depression, and when they are merely experiencing feelings of sadness.
So what exactly are the symptoms of depression?
According to experts, symptoms include: feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness; a lack of interest or pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy; fluctuations in weight; difficulty with sleeping; low energy no matter the time of day; feeling worthless and guilty; difficulty concentrating and making decisions (whether important or otherwise); feeling irritable and feeling restless; and/or feeling suicidal. Those who are experiencing depression can begin to feel like living and functioning in day-to-day life is increasingly difficult and unmanageable.
However, there are many ways to deal with depression – some of which are traditional options that are particularly recommended for anyone with clinical depression, but there are also other options that are sometimes overlooked though they can also be helpful in terms of having better long term outcomes and lower relapse rates. By utilizing some, if not all of these strategies, those who are experiencing any of these symptoms can incrementally increase their overall sense of well being.
So what might some of these suggestions be?
Consider Utilizing Psychotherapy
Sometimes people are not well equipped to cope with depression alone and need the help of a trained and licensed mental health professional. The benefit of psychotherapy is that it can help individuals identify what issues are contributing to their symptoms of depression and how best to address them. With the aid of psychotherapy, it is very possible for those suffering from depression to reduce their symptoms and also prevent future episodes. Before choosing a therapist, it is best to consider the type of therapist you are looking for, the specialities that may best serve you, and which therapist might be the best fit for you – after all, the relationship between you and your therapist is central to positive change. In many cases, if you are looking for the help of a therapist and are a student on a university or college campus, many of these post-secondary institutions provide on campus counselling centres for students to access at little to no cost.
Consider If Medication Is Right For You
Some might also need to consider if medication is an option worth exploring, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms of depression that might need additional assistance. In order to assess if this is the case, you will need to make a visit to your doctor who can help you rule out or treat any medical issues that may be contributing to symptoms of depression. These assessments might result in a possible prescription once your medical provider determines the full details of your situation. At times, practitioners determine that psychotherapy might not always be enough to deal with severe forms of depression. In these instances, practitioners make the decision to prescribe medication. However, when dealing with medication, these sorts of decisions always require medical expertise.
Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Many experts agree that the practice of mindfulness can help deal with the symptoms of depression because the practice entails staying aware and conscious in the present moment. While mindfulness sounds simple and easy, it really is not and can take a great deal of practice (at least initially). As a college student, it is often the case that you will be trying to manage many tasks at once – classes, work, friends, family and a social life beyond your ordinary circles. And of course, you are trying to do so while trying to stay focused about all of the things you need to accomplish. This can often be quite difficult and may, at least at some times, seem almost impossible to imagine staying in the present moment. In these moments, mindfulness can help those battling depression focus and maintain a centred level of calm.
Mindfulness practice can be accomplished by doing many things including: meeting with a therapist who emphasizes mindfulness; going to a yoga class; reading about different mindfulness exercises and practicing them on your own; listening to audio mindfulness meditations; and attending a meditation class or retreat. The benefits of mindfulness include helping people manage depression, reducing relapse rates, remaining calm throughout your day, and doing so at any time because mindfulness exercises can be practiced anywhere and anytime without anyone knowing,
Spending Time in Nature
While spending time in nature seems like a simplistic solution, experts agree that it is shown to reduce symptoms of depression. This practice – otherwise known as ecotherapy – offers many benefits that include: lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, reducing stress hormone production, boosting the immune system, and improving overall feelings of well being. For students, some of the practical ways that this can be achieved include: going on a 30 minute walk in a green setting on a hiking trail, taking a short trip to the country or the coast, or exercising outdoors in the form of walking, hiking, running, skiing, or swimming.
Experts agree that exercise has countless physical health benefits such as strengthening your heart, lowering blood pressure, reducing body fat, improving strength, and even reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. For college students in particular, the benefits can also be mental in that exercise helps them increase and improve brain activity by way of improving memory and thinking skills. Of course, exercise comes in many forms – some of which require great spaces that universities and colleges provide to their students. So if you are a student with access to these facilities, consider taking up an intramural sport (basketball, football, or tennis for example), working out in the gym facilities, or going swimming. There are also other low impact forms of exercise that you could consider such as yoga and pilates.
In any case, engaging in low or high impact activity will undoubtedly give you an emotional boost, improve your mood, and increase your well being. It can also be a great way to be social – and this practice is also known to positively impact your mood.
Strengthen and Improving your Social Connections
When students move away for school, or even endure tremendous amounts of stress, life can be hard and overwhelming. In these instances, it is important to put your energy into relationships as well – particularly those that can improve and sustain positive mental health.
Experts agree that isolation often is where depression thrives, and so it is important to reach out to others for support. As a student some of the best ways to strengthen social connection might be: put together a study group, set a time with your roommates for a weekly dinner date, join an on campus club or intramural sports team, engage in community work, and most especially, stay connected with friends and family via emails and phone calls.
Make Sure You Are Intaking the Proper Nutrition
The key to feeling well is often eating well. However, when you are in college, it can be hard to find the time to eat, let alone the time to shop for, prep, and cook healthy foods. So what are some solutions so that eating better isn’t more stressful? Well, you can turn to simple snacks that don’t require any prep, and travel easily, like apples and almonds. Also, include good food that does not entail a lot of work – you might consider things like oatmeal which is great for you, or green tea, both of which take little to no time to prepare. Also, remember that sometimes nutritional deficiencies can contribute to symptoms of depression. So in order to avoid this problem be sure to check in with your doctor and inquire as to whether you should add any vitamins into your diet. You might even consider visiting a nutritionist who can help put you on the best eating path possible.
Taking Care Of Your Sleep Habits
Sleep is incredibly important, and when people have a limited amount of sleep, it can affect your mood and feelings tremendously. However, as a young person, getting good sleep is not always easy particularly when there are social commitments to attend to, stress that comes from working and studying, or feelings of anxiety from low-school performance. However, it is sleep, often times more than anything that can critically impact your mental health. So, experts will often remind those who are prone to depression that they must learn how to prioritize their sleep.
There is plenty of available information that indicates that drug and alcohol use in college is very often a major part of school culture. However, this kind of social activity has many negative health impacts particularly as they are related to symptoms of depression. In fact, it is often the case that consumption of either alcohol or drugs go hand-in-hand with depression. While one might think that engaging in either will help achieve relaxation, or living stress free of the burdens of life, researchers have found that this kind of behaviour comes as a result of young people who feel the symptoms of depression. This is particularly one sort of social behaviour to be careful of, as the tendency to drink or do drugs in limited instances, can, as a result of depression, quickly escalate to the disease of addiction.
Set Healthy Boundaries
One symptom of depression is a feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt. This is often the case because some people find it difficult to say no or set boundaries – even when it is in our best interest to do so. This is particularly a possibility in college when students often feel the pressure to say yes because of peer pressure and the encouragement to “seize the day.” This might mean that students will choose a fun night of debauchery over a study group. But not being able to set boundaries can have a detrimental effect on your life choices – and as such, it is an important practice. Even though it can be hard to disappoint people by saying no or setting a boundary, it is a necessary skill and it is one that you should never feel bad for doing – especially when it is in the interest of your own well-being. Learning to set boundaries can lead to a boost in self-esteem and increased feelings of self-worth.
While this is only a short list of possible depression beating strategies, these are all ways that students and young people more broadly can implement techniques that are proven to assist and solve symptoms related to depression. This is a process that should never be dealt with alone, and it is definitely a process that has solutions.