Urgent Support

Dealing with emotional distress

Rishi had always excelled at academics but was finding it difficult to keep up with the new routine at IIT. No matter how hard he tried, things seemed to be slipping out of hand. He felt like his confidence had taken a big hit recently. On many days, it was a struggle to get to classes. He felt like he just didn’t have the energy to do much. His friends had also started noticing how he seemed upset most of the time and that he rarely stepped out of his room, not even for their regular group lunches.

Initiation

As a student at IIT, college-life can be an exhilarating period, full of new experiences and possibilities. Some of these experiences may lead to excitement and curiosity while some can cause distress. You’re faced with unique challenges like staying away from home, immense academic stress and competition, navigating personal lives back home, and balancing different relationships to name a few. It is very natural, then, to experience difficulties or feel sadness, a low mood, physical exhaustion etc. while adapting to these novel changes. For many students, things start getting better with time, as they figure new ways to deal with the situation at hand (some of which are mentioned later below).

However, for some, the experience might be much more than fleeting feelings of sadness or a low mood once in a while. For them, the experience is that of severe emotional distress, which can stay for long periods of time, and can affect the way they feel, the thoughts they have, and their behaviour, and affect their academics and relationships, just like what Rishi had been going through. At such times, it might be a good idea to seek help.

Symptoms

How do I know if I should seek help for my low mood?
If you have been experiencing some of these signs for the last two weeks or more, then you should seek help immediately.
  • Having considerably lower energy than before and feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling low most of the time
  • Losing interest and not enjoying activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Feeling angry and irritated at the slightest things
  • Avoiding meeting people
  • Crying a lot
  • Having negative thoughts about the world (Everyone is against me; Everybody hates me)
  • Having negative thoughts about yourself (I am worthless and inadequate; I am undeserving)
  • Having negative thoughts about the future (Things will never get better for me; I’ll never be good at anything)
  • Thoughts about hurting oneself
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless
  • Change in sleeping habits (lot more or less than before)
  • Change in eating habits (less or more compared to before)
  • Finding it difficult to complete daily tasks
  • Using substances to ‘feel better’
(These signs are not for self-diagnosis/labelling, but to facilitate a better understanding of when to seek help)

Coping mechanisms

Now that we have understood the difference between feeling low at times and prolonged distress, let us look at things you can do to address the former
Focus on the basics:

It is likely that there has been a change in your food, exercise, and sleep routines. While they may sound very basic, each plays an important role in how you feel.

Exercise

Exercise is known to help relieve tension by leading to the release of natural mood enhancers.

Sleep

When we’re not feeling okay, it can affect our quality of sleep, leading to sleeplessness or even excessive sleep. If you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep or get quality sleep, you can refer to the article.

Know more
Food

While unhealthy food helps us feel better momentarily, it is likely to make us feel more lethargic later. Maintaining healthy food habits can better aid in feeling better (including some sunlight!)

Relaxation techniques

Practicing relaxation techniques can help boost feelings of well-being. Check which method suits you the best.

Know more
Increasing activities

When feeling down, we often spend more time staying in bed alone, watching shows or playing games, avoid meeting friends, and other activities that we enjoyed earlier. Often, these very actions make us more isolated and further worsen our mood, thus creating a vicious cycle.

Increasing your activity level, especially those that you previously enjoyed, can help by giving you something to focus on. Additionally, accomplishing tasks can also help you feel a sense of achievement and encourage you to do more.

Starting, however, can often be hard and it helps to break down tasks into small and achievable goals. You can use this day planner to help plan your days in advance.

Time What I Plan To Do
8-9 am
9-10 am
10-11 am
11-12 pm
12-1 pm
1-2 pm
2-3 pm
3-4 pm
4-5 pm
5-6 pm
6-7 pm
7-8 pm
8-9 pm
9-10 pm
10-11 pm
11-12 am
Notice your thoughts

Our thoughts have a considerable impact on the way we feel and act. Practicing towards becoming aware of these can help us understand their influence and importantly, check their accuracy.

To know more about come common thinking patterns and ways to modify the unhelpful ones,

Thinking Errors - Worksheet
Reach out to loved ones

Sometimes, talking to someone who genuinely listens and understands can be very helpful. Reach out to anyone you trust in your circle.

Put it all together and create your own coping card

Create a list of coping strategies you can access when you notice your mood getting worse. These could include names of people you can turn to, triggers to avoid, any coping statements, and things you can do that have previously helped you feel better.

3 things I can do to cope:

People that I can reach out to:

Affirmative statements I wish to say to myself:

Other things I like: (could be a quote you like, any dialog, video, etc.)

Seek help

If these concerns sound familiar, it is highly advisable that you seek support. You don’t have to face this alone. Help is always available and reaching out can be one of the most important steps you can take. Remember that you’re not always going to feel this way and most people get better with help.
Where can I find help?
  • For physical ailments, lethargy, not being able to eat or sleep properly, or stress, approach the IIT Hospital.
  • Talking to a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre could give relief and provide guidance about what you can do.
  • Talk to your mentor if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Please don't hesitate in reaching out to your parents even if it is just to unburden!