May 27, 2020

Post-college Depression: How Alcohol Can Make It Worse

When you graduate from college, things are kind of up in the air. Nothing is set in stone, especially if you don't have a job right away. You're separated from your friends. No matter how hard you try, you haven't completely navigated through the transition to adulthood. All of these factors can give you a serious case of the blues.
One of the symptoms of post-college depression is excessive drinking. It's relatively easy to turn to the bottle to temporarily cure your woes. Post-college depression and alcohol definitely mix often, but they don't mix well.
Drinking Never Helps You Feel Better in the Long Run
Your drinking habits from college can be carried over after you graduate, especially if you're feeling down. According to a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 80 percent of college students drink alcohol. Half reported binge drinking in the past two weeks.
brain-78440_640Alcohol is a depressant. This means it slows down your central nervous system, which causes your brain to function more slowly. Although depressants initially have a calming effect on your brain, the more you drink, the more your negative feelings will take over.
Alcohol temporarily makes you feel calmer and happier. But in the long run, it increases stress and anxiety. This is due to alcohol's effect on your brain's neurotransmitters. If you drink regularly, it can even lower levels of serotonin, a chemical that regulates your mood.
What's worse, if you're genetically predisposed to developing depression or alcoholism, alcohol can easily trigger these feelings and desires. Family history of the illness can further put you at increased risk.
Alcohol and depression can lead to further harm. The health issues associated with binge drinking can lead to STDs, high blood pressure, liver disease, car accidents, suicidal thoughts and death. You don't need any of that on top of your depression.
Overcoming Post-college Depression: It's Up to You
It's challenging, but the only way to overcome depression without alcohol is to help yourself. You can do this by:
  • Trying Something New: In college, you became comfortable. You had a set schedule, you hung out with the same awesome friends every day and you were always around campus. Now, things are much more open and ambiguous, especially if you're not working right away. Wasting away on the couch isn't helping.

    Maybe it's time to be a little risky. This doesn't mean doing dumb things — it means doing things that make your heart feel full or give you a rush of adrenaline. So ask somebody out on a date. Go on a road trip. Pick up a new sport. Or volunteer your time to help others in need.

  • technology-792180_640Take Any Job: It's discouraging to work your butt off for four years and still not have a job right out of college. This isn't a time for excuses, though. It doesn't matter what kind of job you take, as long as you have one. It may be part time. It certainly won't be your dream job, but it will give your days more structure, and you'll have pocket change to spend!
  • Make New Friends: One of the hardest parts of graduating from college is leaving your best friends behind. You're all far away from one another and living different lives now. They will still be in your life, but in the meantime, you should find some new friends. There are countless opportunities to do so: in clubs, at concerts, in meetup groups and even in line at the supermarket.
  • restaurant-690975_640Be Social: Don't just limit yourself to finding friends. Talk to anyone. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. It will make most people happy when someone wants to chat for a while. You never know who you could connect with just by being friendly. It will improve your social skills tremendously!
  • Stay in the Present: Does thinking about the future (or the past) fill you with dread? Put it out of your mind. The only way you can emerge from your rut is to think about the here and the now. Ask yourself what you can do right now to feel happier!
  • Set Some Goals: Finally, when you're done figuring out how to be happy in the present, set some goals for the future. It can be as small as applying to a few jobs a day or learning how to make a new meal. Having goals helps you overcome self-doubt and gives you something to look forward to and work toward.
Have any tips or stories to share? Head to the comments!
Corinne Keating is a freelance writer and health and wellness blogger. She loves a good read, a good view and a good workout.

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