Depression is more than feeling sad. It drains your energy, motivation, and confidence. When you're depressed, even the things you normally enjoy don't sound that great. Eating and sleeping are off-kilter, you want to hide out by yourself, and your brain feels fuzzy. It's easy to brush these experiences off as "just stress" or feeling tired, but when they persist for a few weeks, it could be depression. 

Depression is a common problem that college students face with the many transitions, new roles, and stressors that happen in school. If this sounds familiar, know that you're not alone, and remember that there is hope! There are things you can do to manage depression and feel better.

Try these tips for managing depression and feeling better:

A common trigger for depression is a shift in daily rhythm. Even when it's a good thing, like starting college, big transitions and changes in routine can leave us feeling down. Start small with a regular morning and evening routine, and build on that by including time for regular meals, physical activity, school, and fun. Read more about adopting healthy and supportive habits.

Even though college comes with many responsibilities, it doesn't mean there's no room for fun. Begin scheduling small actions that you enjoy or used to enjoy, and make a point of following through on them. If it doesn't feel as fun as it used to, think of this as choosing to do something that will positively impact your day. Read more about doing the things you used to enjoy.

Depression's well-known for telling us to isolate, so when you're feeling down, take steps toward reaching out to supportive family, friends, or mentors. Even small things like holding the door for someone or smiling at a classmate can make a big difference. Read more about reaching out and building relationships.

If depression's making it hard to stay on top of your daily chores, set aside a little time for one small task at a time. Do some dishes, clear a pile of papers, finish a load of laundry. Not only does this get you moving again, but it feels better to see immediate results of your actions.

Time in nature can work wonders. Even if it's just a trip around the block, getting yourself out of your room and into the world again can give your mood a shift.

If depression has you thinking that everything is hopeless, make the conscious decision to move your thoughts in a constructive direction. If positive thinking doesn't feel accessible right now, that's okay. Don't try to force it. Instead, try to name something that's working, something you accomplished, or something that's in your power to change. Remember to be open and caring with yourself as you do this - don't fight negative thoughts with more negative thoughts! more about challenging negative thinkking.

Not sure what you're thinking? That's completely normal! Your thoughts are very fast and well-rehearsed. Use the Thinking Error and Self-Defeating Beliefs handout to help you get to know any of your negative thinking patterns.

Thinking Errors and Self Defeating Beliefs-Anxiety and Depression.pdf


Ready to learn more?

Read more depression management tips from Campus Health:

Develop a Wellness Toolbox

Fight Depression by Managing Stress

Exercise is an Antidepressant

Eating Well to Improve Your Mood


Talk to a counselor:

Learn more about getting started at CAPS. And find out more about the Waking Up From Depression Group and Happy Sessions Workshop Series.


Enroll in TAO Self-Help. (It's free!)

TAO has self-help modules on improving your mood and leaving your blues behind. There's also a great mindfulness library. Enrollment in TAO is free for UA students!


Learn more about depression with these articles and books:

Depression on Psych Central

Warning Signs You May Be Depressed on Very Well Mind

8 Tips for Living With Depression on Very Well Mind

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns


Or try one of these free apps for Android and iPhone:

Stressbusters Wellness, U of A Edition: audio tracks, relaxation, meditation, events.

Headspace: Meditation and Mindfulness Made Simple

Stop, Breath & Think: 5 minutes to peace

Ipnos relaxation and sleep tools: relaxation melodies, relaxation meditation, relaxing yoga music, wake-up and sleep-aid clock app

Omvana by Mindvalley: 500+ transformational audios for body, mind, lifestyle, productivity, relationships, hypnosis


Go back for more self-help resources from CAPS