A very scary and real side of depression, anxiety or even stress is self-harm. About 17 percent of college students have reported that they have partaken in some form of self-harm.
So what is self-harm?
Self-harm is when a person purposefully inflicts pain on themselves in different sorts of ways, without intent of ending their life. Different ways people induce self-harm include:
Scary huh? I am sure there are many readers out there wondering, “Well why would someone want to do that to themselves?” Studies show that there are many different reasons why people of all ages partake in these sorts of actions. In terms of college students some of these reasons include:
What are some signs that someone is self-harming?
- Scars. Anywhere- arms, legs, shoulders, etc.
- Claiming to have frequent accidents
- Wearing long sleeves or long pants even in the summer or in a warm area
Self-harm is a very real issue on college campuses today especially with so much to worry about. Some students are hard on themselves and feel that this is a way to control situations and punish yourself for not being perfect or doing something out of character. There are students out there who are so overwhelmed with depression and anxiety that they lost the ability to feel. By inflicting self-harm these students can finally feel something and this gives them pleasure. If you are or know someone who self-harms please know that you are not alone. Self-harm is so dangerous because those who partake in this behavior believe that they have everything under control so they do not go for help. Self-harm can too quickly turn into an accidental suicide and the loss of a life. If you see someone you know or don’t know- it doesn’t matter- say something. I can almost guarantee you these people have not went for help yet and maybe self-harm is there way of screaming for help when they do not have the words to do so. While the video below is somewhat from a high school perspective, I believe it is a very good watch and can put things in perspective especially because since self-harm is a habit it usually stems from high school and is brought with a student to college.
“Social life, grades, sleep: Pick two.” We have all heard this right?
Anxiety can be a very scary thing to experience while in college and there are so many different things that can make us students feel anxious. Taking care of anxiety is very important because there are cases out there where students actually have to drop out of school because of their anxiety. So what is the best way to handle all of these feelings of anxiety? These are a few ways that I believe are the best ways for us college students to handle feelings of anxiety.
1. Take a visit to your school counselor.
I know that most all schools, if not all, have some sort of health and wellness center where students can go and talk to a mental health counselor to get some things sorted out. Now going and see a mental health counselor does not make you are crazy it makes you smart! It means you love yourself enough to go and get help which is amazing! Your sessions with a counselor may just include talking things out and being able to hear how ridiculous your fears are, or they may involve some serious treatment that may be necessary! Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used to modify maladaptive thoughts to decrease your symptoms. This may include exposing you to thoughts such as failure and showing that there is nothing to be afraid of and giving you more ways of coping rather than escape of avoidance.
2. Take a night off.
No, you don’t have to be busy every night of the week! Take a night to just lay down and watch Netflix and forget about all of your problems. You need to be able to make “me” time because if you don’t how do you expect to get anything done or be happy?
3. Talk with your professors.
Keep your professors in the loop! If you are having some extreme anxiety about an assignment or a project in class go and talk to them! All they want to do is help and if you are seriously having a problem then they will be more than happy to help you through it.
4. Accept your feelings.
Do not feel crazy for feeling so anxious! While some of your fears may be unrealistic that does not mean that there is something wrong with you. Accept that you are who you are and love yourself for it and you will be able to move forward from there and get help.
5. Talk it out!
This is very important. If you do not feel comfortable enough to go and talk to counselor you MUST find someone whom you trust and whom you KNOW will tell you the truth and keep you in check! Someone who will help you take a step back and look at the situation and say “Hey, this is not a big deal, this is why.” Having someone from OUTSIDE your head can and will help you put things in perspective and make life so much easier.
Did you know that while depression is the most common of all mental illness, anxiety is the most common mental illness among college students? We have been talking about stress a lot and stress has a lot to do with anxiety, but it isn’t quite at that level. Having issues with anxiety can lead to much worse problems in the long run.
The difference between stress and anxiety?
The main difference is the thinking process. While both can be caused by the amount of responsibilities you have on your plate, anxiety includes completely illogical thoughts that are more than likely untrue. An example being “Oh my God, if I don’t pass this test then I am going to fail this class and then have a low GPA forever and then never get into Graduate School and then never get a job and then become a hobo.” Illogical right? While stress just involves understanding you have a lot to do and you are upset about real thoughts that could actually happening. An example of this being “Man I failed this test, if I keep doing this bad I may have to retake this class.”
Having anxiety in college and not being able to handle it properly can lead to a number of disorders, the most common being Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. This could involve obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. These are all very common in college students everywhere and it makes it very hard to function normally I campus. I knew a student who had frequent panic attacks and if a panic attack was coming on there was no stopping it. These panic attacks can be correlated with something or just be as random as anything. That is the scary thing. Could you imagine just eating lunch and then all of a sudden going into a dead sprint in the middle of the quad screaming and sweating? I can’t. The most important thing to do to help those with these problems and be there to support and help them become as integrated into campus as they possible can be.
In our last discussion we talked a lot about stressors in college life and factors that can lead to stress. College can absolutely be overwhelming. There are times that you can feel like you are drowning in commitments and that you will never have a chance to come up for air. While we may feel there is no way out, there are many ways that you can manage your time and keep the stress to a minimum. Keeping stress at a minimum will not only keep you calm but your grades will be better, you will be less irritable, your sleep schedule can get back on track, and your overall mental and physical health will be in good shape. Yes, grades are important, but nothing is more important than your health. Is a 4.0 really worth 4 panic attacks mixed with insomnia and mild depression? I don’t think so.
Below I have compiled a list of 5 of my favorite tips to use to keep stress at a minimum. There are some great websites out there with great advice and I can link you to some of these websites. Not only are there great websites for advice but there are plenty of support groups out there that are willing to facilitate discussion and give support to those who have no where they feel they can go for support. There are also plenty of on-campus resources students can use FOR FREE that are so helpful with dealing with stress such as the health and wellness center!
Shannon’s 5 favorite ways to manage stressors in college:
- Decide on priorities. While you may want to, you can’t do everything. Decide what the most important things are that need to be done and get those things done first, and then go down the list of priorities. For me, being a good friend is my number one priority. If I need to be there for someone then my homework can wait and I need to be okay with this decision. For others school may always come first and extra-curricular’s can come in if there is time. Manage your time in a way that your number one priorities are done and then move down the ladder in a timely fashion.
- Stay Fueled. By this I mean sleep and nutrition are everything. I know how college kids think. Oh I have a break for lunch? I will just do homework I can eat later. But do you eat later? Or oh yeah all-nighters are a good way to get work done. Are they? You NEED to get your rest and eat healthy. This will keep your body going in a way that you will be able to get what you need to get done, done and keep the stress low.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is a challenge for me and I have to constantly remind myself that asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness! Go to a tutor or ask a class mate for help if you are having a hard time understanding something! Even go to your professor after class. In the case of extracurriculars, if you are a part of a club that you have responsabilities for do not be afraid to ask some other members for some help! It is what they are there for.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. If you do not have time for something, say no! Do not worry about someone else’s feelings or responsibilities. In college your number one priority needs to be you and if you can’t handle another thing on your plate there is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Don’t be stressed about being stressed! Everyone in college is stressed. Those people that look they have their selves together every day? They don’t. Stress is a normal emotion that everyone feels especially in college and stressing about feeling this way is going to do nothing but make things worse. Stay calm and love yourself!
As we have talked about so far throughout this blog, college is not all fun and games. You are constantly being pulled in different directions such as homework, studying, friends, sports and even sleep! It almost feels like you can’t do it all. If you get sleep and do your homework, then you will have no social life. Or if you go out with your friends and get sleep, you will not get your homework done. These three things are very important to the college student and cause A LOT of stress. When we realize that we do not have enough time in the day to finish everything that we need to stress begins to become unmanageable.
Once stress begins to become unmanageable is when there starts to become a problem. Too much stress can cause not only mental illness but physical illness. If you are not getting the proper amount of sleep each night or not eating right your health will suffer and this will make you even MORE unable to complete your day to day tasks. Issues with anxiety and depression start to peak at these points in time and life will feel completely unmanageable.
This video below is a great indicator of how real stress is for college students in today’s day of age.
Normal things that you may feel are nothing to freight about are sometimes the worst of them all. College students have to worry about so much and there is nothing wrong with taking a step back from everything and taking time for yourself. In our next blog we will discuss more about what we can do deal with our everyday stressors in a healthy way.
Depression is not a thing to joke about or take lightly. Depression is a very deadly mental illness and most people who do not have it have a hard time understanding it. This link right here leads to a great article telling those who do not understand it the key points that they are missing. Some of the highlights are the following!
- Most of the things people will say to help you are profoundly and dangerously unhelpful.
- It physically hurts.
- Asking for help feels counterintuitive.
- You feel like you are absolutely losing your mind.
- Everyday tasks will feel overwhelming.
- It’s nearly impossible to tell when it’s just your “depression talking.”
- Depression can also mean not feeling anything at all.
- You’ll feel guilty.
- So you will earnestly argue with people over how terrible you are.
- Depression will make you feel that you are alone. You are not alone.
So if talking to people doesn’t help and no matter what you will always feel this way, what can you do to combat depression while you’re in college? The great thing about college is that you will ALWAYS be around people. That is unless you choose to seclude yourself which YOU WILL WANT TO DO. You MUST resist this urge!!! Always be around people, specifically people who care about you. The following is a list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with depression that I came up with.
- Surround yourself with loved ones.
- PUSH yourself
- A lot.
- Go to your campus wellness center. They have great resources and staff that will help you along the way
- Take vitamin D!
- Talk to your RA or RD if you have an issue in your dorm.
- GO GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT
- Isolate yourself
- Push your friends away
- Keep your feelings inside
- Be afraid to go get help
- Be afraid to tell your friends what is going on
- Feel crazy or stupid- so many people around you feel the same exact way.
This list can even help those who have friends dealing with depression. If you have a roommate or a friend or even an acquaintance that you think might be suffering. TELL SOMEONE. You may feel helpless because nothing you say will seem like it is working, but do not give up. All your friends need is for them to know that they have people love them and that they are not alone. Never give up on someone. This is college, a dog-eat-dog world and no one can get through it alone.
We used the word “depressed” a lot in our day to day lives don’t we? “Oh I’m so depressed today my favorite show was canceled.” Or sometimes we talk about taking our own lives as casually as we would say hello to someone, “I have so much homework today I am just going to shoot myself.”
Depression is the most common mental illness in our society and that is why we refer to it as the “common cold” of mental illness. Our society stresses on us that we NEED to be happy and if we are not then something is wrong. No one is just sad anymore because if you are sad then you’re not happy and we are told every day YOU MUST BE HAPPY!! What does this do to us? I will tell you what it does to us it gives us a false idea in our heads of what happiness is and what our lives are supposed to be. So when life doesn’t turn out how the idea in our heads tells us it’s supposed to be OF COURSE we are going to be sad! Depressed even!
This scenario is even more real in the college setting. I cannot express to you enough how many times that I have been told “These will be the best four years of your life” or “These next four years are going to fly by, you better cherish them.” Kind of a seize the moment type of thing right? But then there are papers, and homework, and roommate troubles, and boyfriend problems and death and the real world and you just feel like screaming!!!
I find myself saying often “Wow I am pretty miserable, and THESE are supposed to be the best four years of my life? The rest of my life is going to be pretty crappy.” This is where negative thoughts start creeping into the brains of us young ambitious college students and things start to become a problem.
My name is Shannon I am a senior college student I have been suffering from depression for basically my whole life. Depression is more than a sadness, it is a physical pain mixed with dread, fear and seclusion from the outside world. There are days that go by I don’t even remember what happened because I was in a state that I refer to as “zombied.” While there are days that are absolutely unbearable, I get through and I have learned how to make it through college AND be successful. Crazy huh? But the thing is I KNOW that there are others out there who feel the same way I do, maybe worse, and they are not doing so well. To those people; YOU ARE LOVED! College is hard and even harder when you have to get through it alone. Throughout this blog we are going to focus on mental illness in the college setting and what we can do to get through it and let those who are struggling know that they are not alone.