Post semester depression?

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In this blog we will discuss what Post semester Depression is.

We will also discuss why it occurs and how to cope with post semester depression. 

Post semester depression?

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Post-semester depression is a common phenomenon that is expected by college students who finish their semester and are in the midst of their break- spring break usually. 

It is not an official diagnosis but it is commonly a term that is used to refer to the sense of emptiness, anxiety, and low moods that college students usually experience after their semester is over. 

Post semester depression often occurs when the semester ends and all the schedules are dropped, and the student no longer has a framework for their day to day lives, it can leave the student feeling a little out of place. 

If the student chooses to go back to their hometown, that sense of displacement can also add to the sense of isolating and confusion. If the student chooses to remain in the dorms, the fact that most of their mates might have gone back home could leave the student feeling lonely and listless. 

The depression that these students experience during this time is marked by 

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

During this time, a person might experience depression that manifest in the form of:

  • ignoring responsibilities
  • avoiding family and friends
  • performing poorly at work due to a lack of focus
  • Fighting and anger 
  • Substance use.
  • The student might stay in and sleep in most days 
  • Remain anxious and irritable when interaction with others
  • They might also develop unhealthy diet and sleeping patterns as well. 
  • It is also possible that in severe cases, the student might also develop thoughts of suicide or suicde realted behavior.

Why does post semester depression occur?

Post semester depression typically occurs due to the complete lack of rigid routines that the students are used to due to their academics leaving them ample time to think and reflect on their lives. 

In most cases, it is at this time where they are able to sit in silence away from the rush of their academic life as students that they grow anxious about where they are going and who they are becoming which causes anxiety and ultimately depression. 

To further understand why this is happening you must understand that stress or anxiety is not all a negative thing. There is a certain level of stress and anxiety that is adaptive and which motivates us to take action and survive- it is a genetic mechanism. 

This anxiety that we feel is considered the baseline anxiety which is often minimized when we have a plan around our day to day lives that makes things less uncertain. 

For example, as a college student in the middle of classes, you are certain what you are going to do everyday- go to class, study, meet with friends etc. 

This routine and structure minimizes anxiety, hence keeps mental health incheck and prevents depression. 

While school and college can be stressful, the fact that there is a structure and that there is certainty as to what one is going to be doing two hours from now- study or be in class- abates the anxiety that one feels and thus, keeping away any sense of helplessness and hopelessness. 

When the semester ends and all the schedules are dropped, and the student no longer has a framework for their day to day lives, it can leave the student feeling a little out of place. 

If the student chooses to go back to their hometown, that sense of displacement can also add to the sense of isolating and confusion. If the student chooses to remain in the dorms, the fact that most of their mates might have gone back home could leave the student feeling lonely and listless. 

The student will also have much more time to themselves if regular athletic, extracurricular and social activities  are removed. 

The lack of stimuli in their life or the amount of time they are given to think about themselves, their friendships and relationships, and their future can lead a student to feel worried, anxious, and as this aggravate it can lead the student to feel hopeless and helpless. 

This sense of helplessness, feelings of not being prepared enough for work life and the real world etc- that most students feel- and the sense of listlessness and displacement they feel can all aggravate leading to a depressive episode during this time. 

How to cope with post semester depression?

Here are some things that you can do to cope with post semester depression:

Go out and Actively seek positive experiences

According to positive psychology research, positive feelings are an important aspect of well-being. 

For a person to engage in activities and other experiences that help them feel positive feelings such as love, belongingness, achievement, and a sense of hope is important.

Even if you do not want to, even if your body is refusing to- take that chance for yourself and choose to do something that makes you feel less miserable. 

Maintain a routine

Even if you are on a break, set up your day in such a way that it is close to your daily routine when you were in college. 

This means getting up at the same time, eating healthy meals, and instead of going to class, fill the day with things that bring you joy.

This could be as simple as watching a movie, petting your cat, taking your dog for a walk, eating ice cream. Do what makes you happy without judging yourself for these choices.

Towards the end of the day make sure that your routine includes a winddown period where you prep yourself with a healthy sleep routine that helps you relax like warm baths and reading.

Take a summer class

If the lack of productive work is making you extremely anxious, consider enrolling for a class that is or is not related to your academics.

You can consider doing a summer job or internship or you can even enroll yourself for fun classes like art and pottery classes or even do some classes that are skill based for your career. 

Connect with loved ones

Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. This means that you have to make an effort to connect with your trusted friends and family even when you do not want to. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling, allow them to get you distracted while doing fun things together. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

Seek out  professional help

We also advise you to seek out professional help since depression is not just low moods, it won’t simply “go away”. 

Talking to a therapist and engaging with them to understand what is happening to you does not mean that you have failed in life. It simply means that you need help like everyone else and that does not make you any less of a person. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Understanding your condition, diagnosis and Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will help you during this difficult time. 

Focus on self-care

While it might be hard to take care of yourself- you might find it hard to eat, wash, wake up, and do other basic things. 

It is okay to allow yourself to let yourself go for a few days but making the effort to stick to routine and structure in your day to day life can help you move forward. 

Taking care of your physical needs is very important as it is a way to care for yourself. Taking care of your emotional needs is also important and you can work towards emotional self care after taking care of your physical needs first. 

Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones. Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling, allow them to get distracted while doing fun things together. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

You can choose to make new changes that help you feel better or healthier like going to the gym, changing your diet to a more healthy one, going for wants. Sometimes change in routines can also be your way of caring for yourself. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what Post semester Depression is.

We have also discussed why it occurs and how to cope with post semester depression. 

FAQ related to post semester depression

What should I do after a semester?

Here are a few things you can do after a semester:

  • Spend some time reflecting on what you have done and where you’re going
  • Do an internship during the break
  • Enroll in extra curricular classes
  • Learn a new skill

How do you recover from a hard semester?

While it might be hard to take care of yourself after an especially difficult semester- take the time to rest.

It is okay to allow yourself to let yourself go for a few days but making the effort to stick to routine and structure in your day to day life can help you move forward. 

You can choose to make new changes that help you feel better or healthier like going to the gym, changing your diet to a more healthy one, going for wants. Sometimes change in routines can also be your way of caring for yourself. 

References

Coping With Post-Semester Depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder). College Success For Moms. Retrieved on 18th April 2022. https://collegesuccessformoms.com/2014/06/20/coping-with-post-semester-depression/

John G. Cottone. The Semester Just Ended. Why Are Students So Anxious? Psychology Today. Retrieved on 18th April 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-cube/202105/the-semester-just-ended-why-are-students-so-anxious

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