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Online learning offers many advantages, but it can be lonely — which can lead to depression. Risks are particularly high this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many behind closed doors. Being alone in your studies can leave you wondering if you’re the only one struggling, and the self-doubt can eat you alive.
However, giving in to your despair can disrupt your academic progress and even lead to leaving school. You owe it to yourself to get a handle on your disorder. Here are eight tips for coping with online school depression.
1. Get Organized
Feeling overwhelmed can lead to depression. You can start to feel as if you’re defective for not being able to achieve everything. However, minor distractions like social media can eat up your time and leave you scrambling, even when you promise to check for “just a minute.”
Invest in a planner or an app — it doesn’t matter which you choose, as long as you use it consistently. Sit down on Sunday evening to schedule your week, including time for things like exercise and socializing. Assign time estimates for each task, and adjust them as necessary until you get a feel for how long each item takes.
2. Locate Resources
Think back to your freshman orientation if you had one. Do you remember where to locate your campus counseling resources? Most institutions offer a limited number of free therapy sessions as part of your tuition — why not get everything you pay for?
If it turns out that the campus counselors can’t address your needs, they can refer you to outside providers. They can also connect you with support groups that introduce you to others sharing your experience.
3. Eat Mood-Boosting Foods
Depression causes biochemical changes in the brain that your diet can help to correct. One study published by the National Institutes for Health indicates magnesium is as effective as the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine. Other studies suggest the mineral is effective against migraines. Zinc and selenium likewise have considerable antidepressant benefits.
Where can you find these miracle minerals in droves? You have to go a little nutty. A single Brazil nut, for example, contains your full day’s recommended allowance of selenium, and many other varieties are high in this substance, magnesium and zinc. Seeds like pepitas likewise provide oodles of these helpful nutrients.
4. Work It Out
It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you are depressed, but exercise is one of the best mood-boosters out there. It floods your body with feel-good endorphins and provides an instant self-esteem boost.
What if you feel iffy about heading to your campus fitness facility? You shouldn’t cope with online school depression by creating anxiety — consider investing in an app. Most versions cost significantly less than standard gym memberships, and they let you sweat it up in the privacy of your dorm. If you want to add resistance, a set of lightweight bands won’t take up too much of your small space.
5. Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep and depression share a convoluted relationship. It can simultaneously feel like the only thing you want to do while making it challenging to reach dreamland.
If you live in a dorm, you might have trouble if you share a space. A bed tent can provide darkness and a sense of privacy when your roommate burns the midnight oil. A set of noise-canceling headphones does the trick if they’re a lot of bit country and you’re all rock and roll.
6. Socialize a Bit
Socializing is a bit like exercise when you feel depressed. You know that you should do it, but it’s the hardest thing in the world to get yourself motivated. Try to make like a Nike ad and just do it — you’ll feel better afterward.
However, if you run an elevated COVID-19 risk, you might not want to get together in person. See if your school has organized any Zoom happy hours to make students feel less isolated. Look into virtual club offerings — your student literary magazine may not need in-person meetups, for example.
7. Give Yourself a Break
Although some researchers question whether depression and burnout are the same things, one recent meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Psychology indicates that they are two separate disorders with no consistent overlap. However, if staying up to write yet another essay makes you want to hand in a sheet of, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” like something out of “The Shining,” you could use a break.
When you make your weekly schedule, be sure to include unstructured time. Your brain is a muscle, and while it might not look anything like your bicep, pushing it too hard will lead to burnout. Even though the two are not the same, those who score higher on burnout run an increased risk of online school depression.
8. Join a Support Group
Nearly every university offers on-campus support groups, including virtual meetings for online students. Your campus counseling center can connect you to these resources, although your advisor may also keep a list if you ask.
What if you have a rare disorder that contributes to your online school depression? If so, you may wish to look outside your campus to find virtual support groups catered to your unique needs.
Manage Your Online School Depression With These Tips
Your mental state can influence your academic progress and career trajectory. Cope with your online school depression with these eight tips.