Low mood can make university life ever more challenging. Iona discusses a few points to bear in mind for any students feeling the onset of depression.
By Iona Craig
Depression is a serious mental health condition defined by its consistent low mood and lack of character in oneself. As depression slows us down but university keeps going it can seem as if it is too late to continue and we can feel trapped and alone. Below are a few ideas to address this.
If you wondering if you are ‘depressed enough’ to seek help – I’m telling you, you are entitled to help regardless of how ‘depressed’ you deem yourself. Your feelings are valid.
Uni work > mental health or mental health > uni work
Mental health comes before any university work and even if your university work is deemed to be a priority over your mental health; your university work isn’t progressing until your mental health is sorted so, regardless, mental health is worth prioritising. This doesn’t mean you can’t engage in university work, university work can provide routine, goals and keep the brain on its toes which will all help combat low mood however if you do need time out for yourself – take it.
Action before motivation
A common symptom of depression is a lack of motivation which can make engaging in self-help challenging. But motivation comes from action and progress, not beforehand as many of us like to think. Altering depressed thinking patterns is hard; but it is doable and all you need to focus on right now is the first step.
The first step is identifying where you are currently at. Depression can show itself in all forms; physically, mentally, isolating oneself or carrying on as usual but really struggling with the day-to-day thoughts. The next step is to identify what you are feeling; a good way to do this is through talking or writing. From here you can set small goals to work towards which will over all benefit your mindset. If you are struggling to function at all a good first goal may be to contact a professional for help. If you are somewhat able to function a good first step may be to go out for a walk. If you are carrying on with your routine but struggling, a good first step may be to download the mindfulness app or text a friend to meet up.
All or nothing thinking
It is easy to not complete one goal and decide to stuff it in and give up; that you are a failure and that there is no point in trying. This is depression talking. Scientifically it is known as a Cognitive Bias as introduced in Beck’s model of depression. It is possible to alter our thoughts. Instead of punishing ourselves for not doing one task we shift our focus onto the next task and tackle it regardless of whether we completed the last one or not. It doesn’t need to be black or white, there are plenty of shades of grey to choose from. Something is better than nothing.
“Depression doesn’t like a moving target”
This can be interpreted literally or theoretically. Sport is great in combatting low mood; keep your self-moving and your body will do a lot of the work for you. Theoretically, however, this also proves to be true. If you keep progression towards your goals, it is much harder for depression to keep its grip.
January slumps are always a time when low mood increases among the population. The days are short and the nights dark; there is a whole year ahead to contemplate. Try and keep note of how you are feeling, know it is valid and move forwards to freeing yourself from negative thoughts.
If you struggle with depression, there is a whole range of support available at Warwick. Please speak to Wellbeing Support Services to find what is right for you.
If you would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below, tweet us @warwicklibrary or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.