10 Tips For Dealing With Depression In University
University can be a difficult and overwhelming experience for everyone and can be especially hard within the first year.
With moving away from home to being around new people to managing your own money to new surroundings to a harder curriculum, both social and academic stresses can have a direct impact upon student’s mental health.
Depression is a particularly prominent mental struggle that students experience. One study found that 37% of students experienced negative impacts upon their wellbeing upon starting higher education.
If you’re struggling with depression in university, then read our blog on top 10 tips to help improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Symptoms Of Depression
Firstly, we think it’s important to discuss the symptoms of depression and how to spot them. It’s common to have ups and downs whilst at university but if you’re suffering with impacts on your mental health for two weeks or more, you should seek support.
Depression is a serious mental illness, with a range of psychological, physical and social symptoms which can vary from person to person. Here are the most common:
- ongoing feelings of sadness
- being on-edge or snapping at people
- low self-esteem
- finding it hard to sleep or sleeping too much
- eating less or more than you usually do
- low energy
- difficulty remembering things
- having no motivation or interest in things
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself
- feeling physically ill without knowing why
- isolating or avoiding friends
- changes in appetite
If you think you are struggling with any of these symptoms of depression, please seek out professional support. You can find out more on the NHS website.
1. Speak Up About Your Feelings
If you are struggling with your mental health whilst at university, don’t bottle up how you’re feeling. It can be a difficult conversation but it’s important to speak up to your flatmates, friends, tutors or your family and let them know.
You wouldn’t want one of your friends to suffer in silence, would you?
Even if it’s just one person, you need a support network to get you through and you’ll feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders by communicating with others about your emotions.
Chances are your friends at uni will understand your struggles and may be going through something similar themselves and can offer you great advice.
You don’t want to isolate yourself, surround yourself with good people who can support you with any mental health problem!
2. Structure Your Day
Building a routine you can follow each day might not seem too important but having structure can do the world of good when you’re struggling with depression at university, as you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
Start by setting a bedtime and wake-up time for each day so that you create healthy habits, you’ll feel tired and fatigued if you go to bed and wake up at different times each day.
You should ensure you have time in the morning when you wake up to yourself, whether its sitting in bed and watching videos or making some nice breakfast and having a shower, you’ll feel stressed if you’re jumping out of bed every day to make it to your lectures or plans.
Take these tips into consideration to structure your day and there will be changes in the way you feel, and your low mood will improve.
3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care can be hard to focus on when you’re struggling with depression at university, it can feel exhausting to do the bare minimum of even getting a daily shower or brushing your teeth.
However, you should try to take an active stance on looking after yourself and having the all-important ‘me time’.
Self-care techniques like listening to music to going for a relaxing walk to having a bubble bath to having a film night can help manage the symptoms of depression.
It’s the practice of doing things that will improve your mental or physical health, so whatever they are, practice them on a daily basis!
Looking after yourself is an important part of taking control of your health.
4. Try To Socialise
Depression can cause you to isolate yourself from others and stop socialising, but you should try to interact with others especially if you’re feeling sad.
Whilst at uni it can feel draining sometimes due to social pressures especially during the first few weeks and months, as these people are strangers who you have to build a relationship up with.
There is a constant pressure to “make the most” of student life and go out partying all the time, but if that isn’t what you want to do, then that’s okay!
There are tons of ways to socialise at uni, the more you start joining in and speaking to people, the better you’ll feel.
You can make friends for life at university and it’s better than sitting in by yourself with little distractions and pondering on your struggles.
If you are feeling isolated, try joining a society or connect with other students in your accommodation, you won’t be alone with how you are feeling!
5. Be Active
Depression can make you feel low in energy, however, regular exercise can have a positive impact upon your mental wellbeing and can boost your mood.
We don’t mean that you must run marathons or spend hours in the gym every day, there’s a variety of things you can do to be more active.
If you live near green spaces, then you could get up and go for a walk every morning or afternoon or walk to your lectures and seminars.
The thought of exercising may feel exhausting but even a short walk a day can help improve your mood, because it releases feel-good hormones.
Exercising will also positively impact upon your sleeping pattern too since you will feel more tired at the end of the day.
6. Have A Healthy Diet
Having a healthy diet is not only good for our physical health but also our mental health too. Research has shown that there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel.
You don’t have to make massive changes to what you eat and drink but just making some small changes like staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients and cutting down your alcohol and caffeine intake, can have positive impacts on your mental wellbeing
Having a healthy and well-balanced diet can help students to think better and allow them to concentrate on the tasks at hand, which in turn will allow them to do better academically.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t treat yourself to a takeaway and you should eat salads for every meal but focusing on what you eat, and drink can help with some of the symptoms of depression.
7. Use Self-Help Tools
There is a bucket of digital mental-health resources that are available for you to improve your wellbeing from searching for therapy to daily reminders to feeling trackers to learning to meditation tips.
Some of our recommendations for students include MindBox which is a 24-hour instant access online therapy centre. If you have a Totum card, you’ll get completely free access to the app’s features.
Another great app is TalkCampus which is a global 24/7 mental health support network for students to get support for their mental health and offer support to others.
Using self-help tools like these are a great way to manage your symptoms in the comfort of your own home. Research has shown that apps like these can monitor and manage mental health conditions.
8. Try Out New Things
Taking out new hobbies or interests is another great way to improve your mental health. This is because it can help distract you from difficult thoughts or feelings whether it’s taking up painting, learning to play an instrument, baking, photography or yoga to name a few.
Try not to worry about their being a purpose or finished result and instead just focus on enjoying yourself and staying busy.
Doing new things can be scary as we prefer routine and fear the unknown, but new experiences can trigger the release of dopamine so it’s great for those who are suffering with mental health issues.
You can even see if any of your flatmates want to take up a hobby with you!
9. Set Goals
Setting goals can give you more motivation and encouragement, as you have something to aim for.
Make sure to set realistic goals that can help you focus and that you’ll be likely to reach. The journey to getting better and focusing on your mental health won’t happen overnight so take small steps.
Completing your goals will give you a sense of achievement. The key is not to set big goals that are unrealistic, but rather smaller goals that you’ll be able to achieve daily.
Set goals that work well in increasing your mental well-being whether it’s aiming to go for a walk every day to planning to go the gym twice a week to going out and being sociable, whatever your goals are reward yourself for any that you hit!
10. Look Into Treatment Options
There is a wide range of treatment options available for uni students both in-person and online so, if you do think you are depressed you should research ways you can get help for your mental health.
You should speak to your registered doctor about the symptoms you’re displaying too, as they are the professional’s and will be able to offer you the right treatment options to suit you.
There are tons of treatments available for depression such as talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and medicines like anti-depressants.
Your university will also have support services and people you can go to talk to, and you will be able to get help if your mental health is impacting upon your academic performance.
We hope this blog has been beneficial for you, however, we must let you know; we are not professionals. If you are struggling with depression in university, try to reach out to get support from your GP and discuss how you are feeling – don’t suffer in silence.
If you or someone you know is suffering with depression at university, then there is help available here:
- Student Minds – Find Support from the UK’s student mental health charity.
- NHS – Find NHS mental health services and where to get urgent help.
Here at HFS, we take student wellbeing very seriously which is why we have partnered with Student Minds.
Our on-site teams aim to offer the very best pastoral care within our student accommodation properties and will be happy to help you should you encounter any issues with your mental health.
If you’re struggling with social anxiety whilst at university, then you should read our article.