BreatheUni: Depression and Coping

By Anna P., MSc Psychology and Shania Z., BSc Psychology Students and Volunteers


We have all felt negative emotions, whether that’s sadness, anger, anxiety or frustration. These emotions come in waves and some days can be worse than others.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you are feeling down or feeling depressed?
Depression is a mental diagnosis, defined as a constant feeling of sadness. It often prevents you from completing daily tasks and activities. This could be triggered by various different things, such as, upbringing, stressful events or lifestyle choices.

How can we tell the difference between sadness and depression?
Sadness is an emotion that is part of being human. It’s a normal reaction to disappointment or difficult situations we encounter daily. Feelings of sadness often come and go, allowing us to go about our lives as normal. However, people who suffer from depression experience periods of intense sadness that last for a long time. Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are common alongside feeling insecure and guilty.

Symptoms can show in both mental and physical forms:

  • Little to no ability to concentrate
  • Overthinking, anger or irritability
  • Intense sadness
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Issues with sleep, appetite and energy
  • Suicidal thoughts

It’s important to seek help if you’re concerned about depression. Depression can be around for longer than two weeks and is a real, treatable illness that should be taken seriously.

Here is an anonymous extract from someone who has dealt with depression:
“Depression is an uncontrollable wave of intense emotions; it takes over your entire body and consumes you. It often felt as if my body was paralysed with fatigue and that I couldn’t even move from my bed. Doing simple tasks like showering seemed impossible and the only thing I could manage was to eat. I believe it was triggered by a toxic environment through school and friends who made me forget my worth. I’ve learnt that I should never sacrifice myself for the benefit of others. Digging yourself back out of the dark hole of depression is so challenging and support from friends and family is really important. As a result of this, I understand the amount of energy and courage it takes to admit your emotions and ask for help. Reaching out for help was the best decision I ever made. Today I feel like I can thrive and live my life to the fullest without being weighed down by these all-consuming feelings.”

Coping and Controlling:
You may feel as if there are no ways to cope, which is a normal feeling when battling with depression. Once you find ways of coping, which I like to call ‘depression coping mechanisms’, you’ll be caring for yourself more than you think. The first step is always to reach out, no matter who you choose to confide in, reaching out and speaking about how you’ve been feeling can be reassuring. Whether you decide to speak to a parent, a friend, a school counsellor, your manager, your GP or even a member of BreatheUni, this may be a new beginning for you. Reaching out to someone gives you the chance to speak about how you are feeling, you’ll be connected to someone, and chances are they are probably good at listening.

Finding what makes you happy can make a huge difference; whether you enjoy taking care of a pet, going for a walk, listening to music, reading anything that interests you, or even going for a coffee with a friend. Tasks like even making your bed in the morning, or showering, and self-care mornings can get you started for the day and can boost your mood. Taking care of yourself is also very important. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, exercise daily and try not to skip meals. All of this has a huge impact on your brain and mood, and you’ll see small differences in wanting to feel good.

A Coping Checklist:

  • Focus on finding what boosts your mood – it could be an activity, socialising with friends, going for a run, or even cooking a meal.
  • Aim to get into a consistent routine – getting 8 hours of sleep and planning your day
  • Stay connected to friends and family – aim to keep contact at least once a week
  • Talk about your feelings – your loved ones do care about you and want to listen.

If you feel like you are suffering from depression and need immediate support, here are some contacts:

Big White Wall:
Big White Wall is an online mental health and wellbeing service offering self-help programmes and anonymous peer support for anyone dealing with everyday stressors. For more information visit:

Shout UK:
Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. When you text SHOUT to 85258, you are connected to a trained, empathetic and listening Shout Volunteer.

Feel like learning a bit more about other people’s experiences and get a chance to share your own? Come join us at 7pm on Thursday 15th April at our BreatheUni café. And follow us on Instagram @breathe_uni!