Mental Wellness in College: Help for Depression and Anxiety

depression in college

By Tad Lusk, LPC

How many times have you heard the old cliché “college is the best time of your life!” 

When I was in college, I knew I heard it a lot, but it sure didn’t feel like the best time of my life a lot of the time. With the benefit of many years of hindsight, I can look back very fondly of many aspects of college. There were a lot of great times and wonderful experiences that I’m incredibly thankful for. 

With the highs, there were also plenty of lows … including anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, self-doubt, amongst other things. The truth is, while college brings incredible opportunities for learning, growth, and new experiences, it is also a tremendously stressful time in your life.

You might be living away from home and family for the first time, forced to make new friends. You’re adjusting to a demanding schedule of class, homework, study groups, projects, working a job, and oh yeah—trying to have a social life and somehow find time for yourself too. It can be grueling and overwhelming. As a result, many students suffer from depression and anxiety in college. 

I’ve worked with many young adults in college and one of the common difficulties I’ve heard is getting help in a timely way. Many students go to the mental health center on campus, but face impossibly long wait times to get an appointment—sometimes months. 

When you’re in the middle of a depressive episode, or you’re overwhelmed with anxiety on a daily basis, waiting months to get help is simply not an option.

At Denver Men’s Therapy, I specialize in working with young adults through the struggles that are so common with this time in your life. I understand that college students have a unique schedule. That’s why I have day and evening appointments. Making an appointment is quick and easy. Get help right away.

I wanted to share some proven tips to help you feel better in the meantime. So here are some highly effective steps I encourage you to take starting today.

Proven Tips

1. Reach Out

This is the most important of all. Depression makes you feel isolated and can cause you to isolate yourself from others even more. It’s common to shut down and avoid activities in the face of anxiety as well. 

Additionally, many people are reluctant to reach out because of embarrassment, or not wanting to “burden” others. However, reaching out shows real strength—it’s so important and so worth it. The more isolated you are, the more you can get stuck in your head and the worse you feel. 

Plus, we all need connection. We need to know that we are loved, valued and cared about. Even if you don’t think so, I can virtually guarantee there’s at least somebody who loves and cares about you (and probably a lot more people than you think).

Call up one of your friends or family members and let them know you’re having a hard time. In addition, you can reach out to me today to schedule a therapy appointment.

2. Allow Yourself to Feel It

It’s natural to not want to feel difficult emotions like sadness or discouragement. However, emotions are forms of energy that require your attention in order to effectively process them. When you resist, avoid, or numb/bottle emotions, they will continue to surface, calling for your attention more and more.

Instead, acknowledge how you feel. Observe it. Give it a name. Allow it to be there. Rather than immediately trying to ignore the emotions, see if you can notice and feel them, like a passing wave. I find that when I can do this, the emotions often pass and work themselves out in a relatively short time naturally.

3. Get Some Rest

If you can, try to slow down and get some rest. It’s okay to let yourself have a down day (or two). Feeling down, including fatigue and decreased motivation, is often a sign that you need rest. Just as nature has seasons and ebbs & flows, your body, mind and spirit go through natural periods of activity and rest—doing and non-doing. Sometimes it helps to be active, but sometimes you just need to listen to your energy and surrender by slowing things down and resting.

4. Use Resources That Have Helped in the Past

When you’re really struggling, it’s normal to lose sight of things. Sometimes all you can see are the problems, but you surely have relied on resources that have helped you feel better before.

It might be prayer, journaling, reading favorite quotes or books, watching a favorite movie, meditation, going to a favorite hangout, having a delicious meal, being creative like playing or writing music, drawing or expressing yourself in some other way—or maybe something else entirely.

What are any resources you’ve turned to before when times get tough to help you re-set, feel grounded or boost your mood a bit?

5. Remind Yourself of These Truths:

– This too will pass.

– This won’t last forever.

– I’ve gotten through this before; therefore I can get through it again.

– I’m not alone in this. Lots of people have this experience too. Lots of people care.

What would you add to the list? What reminders can you give yourself that remind you to keep perspective and keep going?

6. Take a Break from Social Media

Try taking a break from social media. If you catch yourself comparing to others’ lives & accomplishments this will probably only make you feel worse if you’re already down.

Therefore, take a break. Don’t look at social media for a day or two (or three). It will still be there when you’re feeling better. It’s been proven that social media can compound symptoms of depression.

7. Get Active

Once you’ve given yourself some rest, it’s time to get active. Getting outside, going to the gym, going for a walk or run—any of these are sure to help you feel a bit better.

Exercise, activity, sunshine, nature, are proven mood boosters and will help you release anxiety, stress, tension and overwhelm. Even light movement releases mood-boosting endorphins, and getting out of the house will help shake things up and get a bit of a fresh perspective. 

You might feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you did something good for yourself. Even just going out to a coffee shop will help, because you’ll be out of your home, around other people, and doing something.

Remember that emotions are energy in motion (e—motion) and that energy needs to be expressed—it needs to move out of you. So express it. Talk about it. Write about it. Get it out. Let people know.

When you give voice to what you’re feeling, you shine a light on it, and in the light of awareness, the darkness gradually disappears. When that happens, it takes away the isolation, fear, or seeming “bigness” of whatever you’re dealing with. It becomes more manageable.

Finally, remind yourself that you’re not in this alone! There are people that care about you who would be happy to talk, listen, or support you. 

Things will get better in time, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. I can attest to that. I struggled with a lot of depression and anxiety in college but learned how to overcome it and am now happily helping young people. 

I’d be glad to help you. So please feel free to reach out and schedule an appointment with me. You can schedule online right here, or by calling us at 720-295-4233. 

Take good care of yourself and I’ll talk to you soon!

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