Winter is around the corner and so is seasonal depression, but for some of us depression is a yearlong battle we face. College can be a stressful experience and going through it with depression is even harder. So, I cultivated a few ways to control it and lessen the emotional and physical load that comes with it.
1. You are not your depression.
This is perhaps the thing I suffered most with, which is why it’s top on my list. Depression is an illness, not your personality.
Episodes are tough — they make us feel lonely, helpless, empty and hopeless, but that’s not who we are. As hard as it may be to separate the two, you have to remind yourself that your personality and your depressive thoughts are not the same.
2. Drink water.
Staying hydrated can help lessen the effects of an episode. This is important because your heart and brain are organs that run on water. Dehydration can lead to symptoms of depression or anxiety, or amplify already-present symptoms. If it gets too hard and sometimes it does; keep a bottle with you.
3. Find hygiene substitutes.
Episodes are tricky things. Certain activities become harder than others. For example, showing up to class becomes difficult, but doable, while basic hygiene routines like bathing or brushing teeth become impossible. There’s no judgment here. Tips that get me through that are long-lasting deodorant and chewing gum; it’s not perfect, but it’ll get you through.
4. Pace yourself.
Episodes vary and depending on the severity of an episode, doing the bare minimum could feel physically and emotionally exhausting.
Don’t be ashamed or panic; you’re not the only one. Take things as they come. If you need an extension, try talking to your professor about it. If work is past the due date, still submit it — half points are better than none.
5. Take a mental health day.
We need them, we deserve them and they should be a real thing by now. There’s always that point in an episode where life gets overwhelming and is more than you can handle.
When you take a mental health day, immerse yourself in the things you love or crave. Even if you don’t find joy in the things you used to, look for new things to help. If spending a day in bed feels like the only option, then by all means, name your blanket and get acquainted.
6. Have a support system.
It can be your family, a group of friends, a therapist, counselor or religious guide. Regardless of who or what they are, a support system is nice to have.
For me, I spend every Wednesday night with a close friend. The routine helps with my anxiety. My mother also loves to leave voice messages saying, “I love you,” “You are valid,” and my personal favorite, “You deserve love.” Whenever I feel down I listen to them.
7. Stay healthy.
While I personally do not take medication, being on medication does not make you crazy, or inadequate. Psychotropic medication helps to control the effects of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain, while other medication may help with the side effects of said medication.
Episodes and daily life can make keeping track of medication difficult. I recently learned a trick: set an alarm for it. Find it hard to keep track of your consumption? Place your meds upside down after taking them and turn it back before bed, that way you know when you’ve taken them.
Another part of staying healthy is staying as calm as possible. Listening to your favorite music can also go a long way. I’ve discovered that Disney songs and late 90s to early 2000s music lifts my mood.
Finally, a few minutes in the sun also goes a long way in controlling effects of an episode. Early morning sun has awesome Vitamin A benefits for your body.