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How to Cope with Seasonal Depression as a College Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

The United States is experiencing a mental health crisis. Research shows that about 20% of adults describe their mental health as “fair” or “poor.” Roughly just as many adults also said they felt lonely and depressed in the last year. Then you look at Generation Z: we lived through 9/11, the Great Recession, the Opioid Crisis, and countless mass shootings; we’re currently experiencing Covid-19, climate change, and social and political movements like Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and Stop Asian Hate.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Looking at college students, it’s almost unfathomable to imagine our state of mind when you factor in the ongoing mental health issues, environmental crises, and the long list of traumatic events we’ve encountered with our personal and academic responsibilities. With the end of daylight saving time taking place on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, seasonal depression is something to add to the mix.

Seasonal depression is a subtype of depression that millions of people suffer from during the winter months. While it can pose a challenge in other seasons as well, the upcoming time change tends to kickstart feelings of sadness and hopelessness for a lot of people, myself included. As someone whose been in therapy for almost 4 years, I’ve gathered my fair share of ways to cope with seasonal depression, and I want to share them with college students who may find themselves feeling depressed in the next few weeks.

Disclaimer: These coping strategies worked for me, but they may not work for everyone. Please reach out to someone if you need more help. You can also contact the Texas A&M Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) helpline at 979-845-2700 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

1. Recognize that how you’re feeling is valid and okay.

Self-awareness is vital in addressing mental health issues. When you start noticing that you don’t have the energy to fold your laundry, make plans with friends, or cook yourself a meal, it’s important to acknowledge what those symptoms could possibly mean. Step back and recognize how you’re feeling, and accept that it is okay to feel that way. Your depression doesn’t define you, and you are not broken because of it.

2. Communicate your struggles & Celebrate your victories.

This is the infamous “talk to someone” advice, something that you’ve probably heard many times. It is imperative to talk about your struggles with a loved one or professional. Bottling up all the bad feelings can be exhausting. Along with talking about your mental health, you should also celebrate the things you succeed at with this trusted person. This means sharing and applauding yourself for the small victories like emptying the dishwasher or submitting an assignment you procrastinated on. Small victories are extra important when you’re depressed, so you should share them and embrace the good feelings they result in.

3. Try to pinpoint potential triggers.

Not all depression can be attributed to a source. However, there are often events or actions that you may correlate with your sadness. Whether it’s relationship issues, a bad grade, or a specific piece of clothing, try to pinpoint these triggers. When you do so, you don’t necessarily have to avoid them—in fact, there are some things you can’t or shouldn’t avoid. Instead, you should simply recognize, analyze, and reflect on these triggers so you can learn and grow. Some ways you can do this is by journaling or talking with a friend.

4. Feel your Feelings and try to move on.

Anytime you’re feeling sad, hopeless, or alone, give yourself time to fully embrace those feelings. Cry or stay in bed all day, whatever you need to do. The key takeaway from this is to choose not to live with these bad feelings forever. Set a period of time where you’re going to relish them, and then begin taking the steps to overcome them. You won’t feel like this forever, and moving on can help make that clear to you.

To all the college students who read this article, you are not alone. You are not a burden. You are not helpless. You are fighting a silent battle, and I commend you for that. It is not an easy thing to do, but just clicking this story and choosing to read it proves that you are trying.

Howdy! My name is Sydnie Harrell, and I served as President and Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at TAMU for the 2022-2023 school year. Feel free to get in touch with me on social media.