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Depression is an illness caused by a combination of mental, physical, and emotional factors. Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, panic, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Many people experiencing depression also struggle to sleep well and have trouble with their focus and memory. Learning how to get over school depression will be key.
Unfortunately, depression is incredibly common among high school and college students. In the 2020-2021 school year, 41% of college students in the U.S. reported experiencing some level of depression, while 22% reported extreme depression.
Causes of depression vary, but these high numbers are due in part to the stressful school environment. College and high school students face mounting pressures to perform well and figure out their lives. They often neglect themselves physically and they face stressful situations every day.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, it does not mean you’re failing at life or that you’re intrinsically flawed. Like any other illness, there are effective treatments to help you heal and regain joy and peace in your life. Here are seven things you can do to help start your healing journey.
- Get Your Body Moving
Exercise is one of the simplest steps you can take to combat feelings of depression. In fact, some studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as taking anti-depressants for some patients. Scientists believe that exercise helps with depression because it naturally boosts your mood and helps to regulate your body chemistry.
Experiencing the benefits of exercise doesn’t take a huge commitment. In fact, moving your body for as little as 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week, can lead to improvement. Try taking a short walk several times a week, or go a step farther and join a gym. You can also use YouTube to find short, free exercise videos to do at home.
- Spend Time in Nature
The next time you start feeling overwhelmingly anxious, try stepping outside. Numerous studies show that seeing and experiencing nature can calm your body and increase feelings of peace and hopefulness. Even looking at pictures of nature can have a calming effect on stressed individuals.
Anxiety is directly related to depression, so finding ways to reduce your anxiety will help you overcome depressive symptoms. Try taking your daily exercise outside and find ways to interact with nature throughout your week. Go hiking, sit in a park and eat your lunch outside to bring a sense of freshness and hope to your day.
- Increase Social Connections
Spending time with other people and developing close relationships is essential for mental health. In fact, studies show that social connection can reduce your risk for a range of health issues, including depression, high blood sugar and heart attacks.
Although school is a unique opportunity to build new friendships, it can be difficult to get started. In addition, depression can cause people to isolate themselves more than usual. Push through the awkwardness of meeting new people and try to talk to someone new every day. With enough patience and persistence, you’ll build a strong social network.
- Check Your Nutrition
Sometimes, depression may be triggered by a vitamin or nutrient deficiency. It’s easy to start letting nutrition slide while you’re busy with school, but eating well is important for protecting your mental and physical health. Studies show a clear link between nutrition and depression.
Although getting proper nutrition takes effort, it’s not complicated. Some simple ways to improve your diet include replacing processed foods with whole foods, cutting down your sugar intake and increasing your intake of B vitamins. Zinc, omega-3s and probiotics can also help rebalance your body.
- Improve Your Sleep
Sleep disorders are closely connected to depression. When your body isn’t able to renew itself with a good night of sleep, it can be challenging to operate well the next day. Sleep deprivation or poor sleep for a prolonged period of time also increases your risk of suicidal thoughts.
In many cases, treating your insomnia will improve symptoms of depression. Start by practicing good sleep hygiene – create a bedtime routine, stay off screens for several hours before bed and bring fresh air into your bedroom. Many people also benefit from seeing a doctor for help with insomnia.
- Go to Therapy
Although taking care of your body is essential for healing from depression, it’s also important to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Going to therapy can be stressful, but sharing your struggles with a qualified professional will bring you so much freedom.
Some forms of depression may be caused by an anxiety disorder like OCD, panic disorder, or social phobias. A trained therapist can help you build skills to retrain your brain and reduce the suffering caused by anxiety and depression. Reach out to see if your school offers therapy for students, or use google to find a local therapist.
- Ask About Medication
Although medication is not a good long-term solution for depression, it can help you manage your symptoms while you pursue healing. Anti-depressants interact with your brain chemistry to improve neurological communication and reduce feelings of depression.
Anti-depressants affect each person differently and it takes time to see how they affect your mood. For some younger people, anti-depressants can actually increase symptoms of depression and the risk of suicide. However, for others, anti-depressants reduce their symptoms and make a huge difference in their quality of life.
Depression Is Treatable
When you’re experiencing depression, it can feel like you’ll never be happy again. Those emotions are lying to you. Depression is a treatable illness and there are many things you can do to regain control of your life and find joy in living again.
Time at school can trigger depression because students are facing uncertainty, pressure and many other daily stresses. However, students have a unique opportunity to take charge of their health and start developing habits that will sustain them as they graduate and begin their careers.
Start with these tips to reduce symptoms of anxiety and take the first step on your journey to heal from depression. Each positive investment you make for your health will add up over time – no step is too small. Take courage and start today.
If you’re experiencing thoughts about suicide, reach out for help immediately. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or call a suicide hotline if you’d rather speak with a stranger. Your life is immeasurably precious and you are not a bad person if you feel suicidal.