You need to be able to take care of yourself when you get those college blues. It goes by another name: Duck Syndrome. It’s an analogy for ducks being calm on the surface while furiously flapping their feet below the water. While not a substitute for good old-fashioned professional help, you can do some things to mitigate the damage from immense, industrialized, societal pressure!
If the people around you know that you’re not feeling well, they’ll be more apt to be compassionate about your afflictions, making it easier for you to take care of yourself. You might even find some solidarity in your comrades’ similar situations.
If you can’t communicate with others, seek out memoirs, biographies, and blogs. Commiserating helps, because you know you’re not alone. Your college is required to offer more than nets at the bottoms of buildings, so seek out activities that lead to communication.
2. Proper Diet
Take that à la carte fried food you got—right now—and throw it into the middle of the cafeteria floor, screaming that this is poison. Take some time to figure out better options while you’re being restrained.
If you don’t have a meal plan (which means you probably live off campus), then there’re other cheap options: rice, mass-produced vegetables, dried beans, discount meats, homemade pancakes with a sugar-free substitute, etc.
Kosher, Halal, and vegetarian/vegan options are not necessarily healthier, so educate yourself on the best options for your dietary restrictions.
3. Spread Too Thin “Like Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread”
Maybe you’ve taken on an extracurricular or three. Ones you could handle during high school. You need to put some things on the back burner and come to the realization that you can do them, but you ultimately shouldn’t, for your own sake.
You make a lot of friends in extracurriculars: I did. I also lost 30 lbs. from the stress of taking too many classes on top of it. You lose most of those friends the minute you stop doing it—which means, say it with me…they’re just acquaintances.
4. SAD Lights (Happy Lights)
Seasonal Affective Disorder lights may or may not work. I have two, and I still have no idea if they work. They’re supposed to trick your brain into thinking you’re getting actual sunlight. This is hard because, in reality, you’ve been studying like a hermit in the forgotten catacombs of your college’s library. It’ll help you get out of bed when lethargy and nihilism have infected your soul. The blue LED SADs might give you migraines, so maybe avoid those.
5. Exercise (The Catch-22)
Exorcise those sad demons with some exercise. Take care of yourself by moving: walk, run, lift weights, etc. This is easier said than done for someone who can’t get out of bed on their worst days—try stretching while you’re waiting for your brain to stop chemically sulking. You’re allowed to wear your PJs and sweatpants to most places, so don’t let nonexistent dress codes stop you.
Maybe you feel fat and don’t want to go to your school’s gym. That person deadlifting hundreds of pounds would be insecure if strongman Eddie Hall was around. Find a workout buddy if you can. If you’re very shy, YouTube is a great place to learn how to properly lift.
6. Ground Yourself
A great way to take care of yourself is with a technique called grounding: use your senses to get into the present moment and out of your head. How does the ground feel against your bare feet? Throw on some ambient nature sounds if you’re indoors. This is great for when your stressors become palpable.
7. Hygiene Products
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is by keeping up with hygiene. Even if you’re not showering, there’re temporary solutions: body wipes and dry shampoo. Don’t forget things like deodorant, mouthwash, foot powder, and nail clippers. Avoid too much cologne or perfume. Taking care of your body is like putting on your Sunday best.
8. Study More Efficiently
You have a range of methods to choose from: the Feynman Technique, the Memory Palace Technique, mnemonic devices, interleaving, and mentors/tutors. Minimizing rote learning means more time for R&R. Also, don’t fill those gaps with more stressors.
This is a great way to take care of yourself, and it goes along with communication. Colleges have clubs and organizations that are there for a sense of community.
Colleges have an abundance of nondenominational churches: anything beyond the community factor might not be helpful. Some denominations may be downright harmful in their dogma (e.g., mental illness is caused by supernatural forces).
If you’re nonreligious, there are secular communities. They’re just less abundant. They do exist, though. Atheist and irreligious communities are fairly easy to find on the internet.
10. Over The Counter Remedies
Just—don’t. Valerian root? Bach’s Remedy (basically just alcohol)? St. John’s Wort? Eating melatonin like candy, because they come in candy form and are delicious? Take those quack healing crystals and toss them in the trash. You’re past the point of doing it on your own. At this point, you probably need others to help you take care of yourself.
Maybe your panic attacks have begun to last for longer than an hour—making you pain-angel (supine) on the ground, contemplating your life’s decisions. Find out if your university has a nonguaranteed readmission policy.
The U.S.’s insurance industry is for-profit and treats people as commodities. Hopefully, you’re still on your parents’ insurance plan or you’re poor enough to get state Medicaid (hopefully you’re in a state that doesn’t spurn the poor). If not, your university will offer you a limited number of “free” therapy sessions. Campuses sometimes have therapy dogs that come in. Go pet one. It helps.