It is not unusual to experience periods of feeling down
or lonely in college, especially during weekends when you have a lot of unstructured time--what has come to be called The College Blues.
This sounds like we're talking about sadness and depression, but anxiety and stress also play a part.
Students come to
college with various mechanisms for "self-soothing"--cheering themselves up when they feel down or calming themselves down
when they feel anxious. Typical self-soothing mechanisms range along a spectrum from self-talk, physical activity, talking to a friend, eating, sleeping, going online,
instant messaging, and playing games to drinking, use of drugs, gambling, sex, and pornography.
Any of these self-soothing mechanisms can be carried to extremes. Eating, for example, is well known as a source of comfort
and we talk about the Freshman Fifteen, the average number of pounds gained in the first year of college. The trouble with all of these mechanisms,
when carried to excess, is that they set up a cycle that intensifies the college blues.
Here's how the cycle works: Dan is anxious and upset because
he didn't get a date for the weekend. He eats instead. Eventually, he gains weight, then feels badly about his appearance. He becomes convinced
that he has to hide from public view and stay in his room. This makes him feel worse so again, he eats to feel better. Or this: Sara feels sad because she
is homesick and not used to being around people who don't know her. She reaches out to a guy at a party and they end up having sex, which temporarily makes
her feel better. But the next day, she feels bad about having sex with someone she didn't even know. She really just wanted comforting because she missed her
family and her home. Her self esteem plummets and eventually she feels so bad she reaches out
to someone else for the temporary relief of sex.
The college blues are a real phenomenon which cannot
be ignored. It is wise to have a plan in mind for times when they visit you.
Talking about your feelings to an interested and caring listener is the one remedy--instead of keeping your feelings hidden.
Being with other people engaged in activities you enjoy is a good antidote to sadness.