Starting a new school life can be an exciting time being in a different environment and meeting new people. However, experiencing academic pressure, being away from family, and taking on new responsibilities can also be a challenging transition, filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and difficulties. At some point in our lives we all face an unexpected grade, a relationship difficulty, or other disappointment. If you lose something or someone significant in your life, it is normal and expected that you will feel sad and even depressed for some time. But, when feeling down, lonely, or overwhelmed lasts for weeks or months, or keeps coming back, it can leave an individual scared and confused.
If you are experiencing these or other symptoms of depression, you are not alone. Almost everyone experiences depression at some point in life. However, it is important to know when to get help and that you can do something about depression.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Low energy or fatigue
- Weight loss or gain
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Gradual loss of sexual desire
- Pains and aches in your body
- Feeling sad, empty, or numb
- Feeling more tense or anxious than usual
- Feeling guilt
- Feeling anger
- Excessive worrying
- Mood swing
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling hopeless
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Withdrawal from other people or new situations
- Getting angry so easily
- Being unmotivated to set or meet goals
- Loss of interest in one's physical appearance
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Turning to drugs or alcohol
Changes in Thoughts/Perceptions
- Feeling of being a failure
- Criticizing oneself frequently
- Blaming oneself for unfortunate happenings
- Being pessimistic about the future
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of hurting yourself/suicide
If you identified with some of the symptoms described above and are concerned that you might be depressed, please contact the TUJ Counseling Office and ask to set up an appointment with a counselor.
What You Can Do to Cope with Depression
Depression is not a sign of weakness, laziness or a bad attitude. It is a common psycho-biological condition in human beings, so do not criticize yourself for it. When the depression is affecting your life and interferes with your ability to function, it may be wise to make efforts to change your situation. Some of the tips to cope with depression are:
- Pace yourself or give yourself a break from the stressful situation and/or event. Now is not the time to be taking on new projects, long-term commitments or make big decisions.
- Take care of your body. Try to eat balanced nutritious meals, get exercise, and get enough sleep (7-8 hours a night)
- Build structure into your day. Make time every day to prioritize your work. Prioritizing can give you a sense of control over what you must do and a sense that you can do it. Set realistic goals with smaller tasks, and acknowledge your accomplishments.
- Challenge any negative self-talk or messages that you may be giving yourself. Try to be aware of your negative thoughts. Stick to what you know is true, real and observable, rather than jump to conclusions.
- Focus on the positive side of your experiences. Change the negative messages into positive ones that are uplifting. Give yourself positive affirmations.
- Allow yourself to experience your feelings. Do not keep your emotions bottled up. Find a way to express and experience feelings that are comfortable for you - talk to someone (friend, family member, counselor, professor, mentor, etc), keep a journal, or go to a support group. If you need to cry, do so. If you are angry, find a safe place to express that anger or be assertive to express it to others.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.—Good friends, family or a counselor—anyone who is supportive, encouraging and uplifting. Friends who have a negative outlook will only make you feel more negative.
- Make yourself relaxed. Use some relaxation techniques whenever you feel tense. For example, take a slow, deep breath for several minutes, listen to relaxing music, or practice meditation.
- Avoid alcohol. It is a depressant, and will only amplify your depressive feelings.
- Get professional help. You can also seek assistance from counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists when you feel the need for, or want additional help in, working through your feelings.
- Give yourself time to feel better. If you are depressed, you need to be patient. Change does not really happen overnight. There will be highs and lows, but allow yourself the time you need.
Helping Friends or Family Members Who Are Depressed
- Offer emotional support. This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement. Listen to them without judging what they say. Set aside time so that you can talk without being interrupted. Let them know that you care and are willing to help. Remember that even when you cannot do anything about their depression, your presence alone is great support.
- Introduce coping techniques as those suggested above. If these don't seem to help, suggest that they seek professional help.
- Remember to take care of yourself. Being there for the depressed person should not come at the expense of your own health, physical or mental. If you are overwhelmed, take a step back and consult a counselor for advice.