How many times have you said to a friend (or to yourself) “I’m depressed”? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if you are going through a rough patch or if you are experiencing something more serious.
- Do your feelings of sadness resolve within a few hours or days?
- Do you feel hopeful that things will improve even if they’re hard right now?
- Are you able to put your situation in perspective?
- Despite feeling down, are you able to maintain your daily life (e.g. going to class; getting together with friends)?
All of us have felt down, blue or discouraged at times throughout our life but clinical depression is a significant disturbance in mood which persists for a minimum of two weeks at a time. Depression can affect people of all ages and ranges from mild to severe depending upon how many symptoms you experience, and how much it interferes with your daily functioning. In milder forms, depressed moods are usually brief and may have little effect on everyday activities. Moderate to severe depression includes symptoms that are more intense, last longer, and tend to interfere more with school, work and social functioning.
Depression is a medical illness which can be caused by a variety of factors, including biological, genetic, psychological or environmental factors. Depression affects approximately 15 million Americans every year and is a leading cause of suicide. Although depression might initially begin as a reaction to an event or situation, it is a serious disorder that requires treatment. For others, their mood concerns can occur without identifiable causes. Depression is NOT a result of a personal failure, lack of will power or laziness.
It is normal and expected to have variations in moods over time and even day-to-day. A variety of things can impact how we feel each day. Some common triggers for mood changes include times in which we experience unpleasantness or distress, such as
- Transitioning and adjusting to a new environment
- Academic or employment stress and difficulties
- Conflict or emotional distress in relationships (e.g. family or roommate problems)
- The loss of a significant relationship (e.g. break up; death)
- Concerns about the future
- Financial stress
What can I do when I’m feeling blue?
Try some of these techniques and coping skills to begin to reduce your symptoms. Pick one to experiment with for a week to give yourself enough time to begin to see positive changes:
- Talk to someone you trust
There are significant benefits you feel socially connected to others. This emotional support is linked to the following: increased self esteem, sense of belonging, and ability to cope, and decrease in loneliness. Studies have shown the negative effects of loneliness include: increased risk for mortality, sleep problems, anxiety and tension, and weaker immune systems.
- Take care of your body
Eat healthy meals and get a good night’s rest every day. Regularly exercise, particularly cardiovascular activity or weight lifting, often show benefits similar to taking an antidepressant medication. If you’re interested more in how exercise can help your mood read Spark by John J. Ratey.
- Create balance in your day
Set aside a minimum of 10 minutes a day to do something for yourself that is non-school related. Experiment with different activities to identify which help you gain a sense of Achievement, Connection with Others and Enjoyment. To get started trying use the ACE log, to identify what is most rejuvenating for you.
- Practice gratitude
Gratitude is strongly associated with improving your level of happiness and broadening your perspective on life. For a week, keep a gratitude journal and write down three things every day that you are thankful for.
- Get involved in free activities on campus
- Read a self-help book
- Feeling Good by David Burns
- Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff
- Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss
- Utilize some of the CWC resources aimed to reduce symptoms