The emotional transition to college doesn’t come as easily as expected. Between moving away from your childhood home, living with a roommate, having to follow a new schedule and taking a tough course load, it gets hard to consistently be all smiles. You don’t need to feel alone because many other students are in this same position.
Everyone experiences a bad mood every now and then, but try to remain hopeful even in your darkest times.
Many factors go into the reason why a college student feels depressed or in a significantly bad mood. This mood typically gets triggered by a stressor in a person’s life and everyone may react differently to this particular stressor. When you pass your stress-threshold, you act angry or irritable which can cause your blood pressure to fluctuate, increasing your level of cortisol.
Being thrown into a new environment when starting a new manner of living at college leads to a great amount of stress. Some students find themselves being drowned out through a big school atmosphere, especially when living the previous 18 years of their lives surrounded by the same friends and family, in the same school, in the same house. All of sudden you find yourself trying to make new friends, figuring out how to manage a college level class schedule and searching for that place where you fit in. If these don’t come easy for you, you may feel like a slacker compared other students which can bring your ego down.
With new beginnings, academic pressure may also weigh on you.
College classes are much harder than high school, and the struggle to land an A without being used to spending those extra hours studying leads to feelings of hopelessness. On top of making time to get work done, you deal with social pressure to first make friends, then find the time to hang out with them. Later comes the battle between deciding whether to go out or study, with whatever you choose seeming like the wrong option.
Losing a significant relationship, whether it be with a friend or a partner, factors into the way you are feeling and serves as a huge distraction from what you work to accomplish in your daily life. Even when you feel alone, the person you lost might be feeling equally or even more overwhelmed about the adjustment to college or academic pressure. People tend to cut out the stressors they have control over, so getting rid of a relationship seems to be an easy fix while cutting out a heavy load of schoolwork doesn’t seem possible.
Another factor into negative emotions comes from missed opportunities.
When applying for an internship or a club or attempting to join a fraternity or sorority, getting denied can impact your feelings of self-worth. This possibly leads to feeling depressed or that you are not good enough. Especially coming from being at the top of your class in high school and always earning spots you aimed to get, failing may lead to a breakdown. However, rejection must be something we get used to and accept. We use this to make us stronger and more resilient in the future.
When you see a friend struggling, be cautious. Stay out of their way and give them space for a brief period of time. When you notice their mood remains without improvement, try your best to reassure them that you want to talk them through it and be present if they need you. Isolation leads to more feelings of sadness.
10 Ways To Get Over Your Bad Mood
As Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” The biggest struggle when it comes to exercising relates to actually getting out of bed and leaving your dorm room. Once you set your mind to getting your body moving, you put yourself out in the world. This reduces feelings of loneliness and hopefully helps you feel less isolated than before. Regular exercise reduces stress as well as feelings of depression and anxiety. With blood pumping in your brain, you gain the ability to think more clearly and helps through floods of overwhelming thoughts. For those who don’t like to work out, try a yoga class. Meditation relaxes your body and your mind.
2. Be Social
Even when you just want to curl up in bed and shut the world away, hanging out with your friends and just talking—whether it be about your personal feelings or not—improves your mood. As a result of social interaction, dopamine gets released leaving you feeling happy as well as reducing your stress. When your friends get together and you decide to stay in, the inevitable FOMO hits quickly and now you regret not joining the circle. Don’t miss out on spending time with people. While sometimes you want space, on your worst days you may find that surrounding yourself with company at least distracts you from what you brains seems so wrapped up in.
Finding the time to balance schoolwork, a social life and extracurriculars seems hard enough, but you may find that sleep weighs out all of those (and I don’t mean those mid-day naps we all get caught up in). A regular sleep schedule essentially benefits our bodies as we allow time for our organs to repair themselves and our brains as we let it process and consolidate information. Poor sleep relates to a weakened immune system. Being tired all day disables us from focusing on our work. More sleep leads to a better quality of work. Instead of working all night to complete assignments, the results end up greater with a well rested brain.
4. Eat Healthier
While it gets challenging to eat healthy meals when living in a dorm room or on a meal plan, taking care of your body leaves a positive impact on your brain and your soul. By implementing nourishing food into your diet, changes in brain protein help increase connection between brain cells, whereas eating saturated fats and refined sugars results in negative impacts on brain proteins. Crucial to our health, drinking water prevents dehydration which allows us to think clearly. Consequences of not being hydrated lead to changes of mood and headaches.
5. Go Outside
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exists. By staying inside and refusing to breathe in the fresh air, you make yourself susceptible to negative feelings. Spending time outside can lessen the severity of this disorder. Exposure to nature relieves social pressures and helps us restore value in relationships and community. When you need a break from the harsh lighting and crowds of the library, take a quick stroll around campus to restore focus and get some fresh air as receiving a daily dose of vitamin D improves the way your body functions. On a sunny day, find a quaint spot to do your work outside.
6. Get Involved
Following a schedule (as long as you don’t fill it with too much) puts you into a routine. If you feel lost or like you don’t have a place on your campus, find something to keep you busy and put your focus on. Each college offers hundreds of student organizations fitting all interests. Whether it be a sport, school newspaper or student government, adding something to your day in addition to classes gives you the opportunity to make friends while building your resume and giving you a purpose. Be on the lookout for student involvement fairs you can attend throughout the semester.
7. Talk it Out
While it gets tough to open up, talking about the way that you feel can help relieve some of your pent up stress. Find a reliable friend who you can trust or seek help at your college’s counseling center. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about your emotions. Many college students find themselves struggling. Don’t feel obligated to hide it all away. Sharing your feelings out loud helps put them into perspective and you may realize that your problems are much smaller (or in some cases, much bigger) than they seem. If you don’t want to bother your friends or get professional health, call your family at home. In most cases, they love and want the best for you, so take advantage of the fact that they live one phone call away.
8. Do What You Love
Make sure the major or program you put yourself in fulfills what you want to do. By doing something in college that doesn’t make you happy, you may struggle to be satisfied in the career world. Take the steps necessary to assure you won’t be miserable later on. Try not to pickle yourself into a field that doesn’t suit you.
While academics should be your main focus in college, give yourself time to relax. Whether it be watching reruns of The Office, updating your Spotify playlist or even reading a book, your brain deserves a break. If your schedule allows it take a day off when you feel like it. “Mental health days” don’t need to hold a negative connotation.
If you find your bad mood lasts more than a few days or weeks, take some time to reassess your life and your values. Figure out how to change the path that seems set for you. Do you belong in your current major or at the college your attending? Maybe the courses you signed up for seem like more credits than you can handle. Don’t feel afraid to take a step back. Everyone works at their own pace. Don’t give set a timeline for your life if you find yourself straying a bit off of the path.