It’s not easy studying with depression. Not only do you feel down, empty and lacking a love for life, your motivation for anything vanishes and finding any sort of drive to push forward is extremely hard.
Depression is more than just feeling upset or sad – it is a serious condition which makes coping with day-to-day life to be hard and leaves you feeling down most of the time. With symptoms including loss of interest in daily activities, loss of energy, changes in sleep, appetite and behaviour, and an inability to concentrate, you can imagine how hard this may be to have whilst studying.
I’ve had depression and thankfully (mostly) overcome it. That being said, depression isn’t something that you really get over and forget about. It’s not the common cold. I do still get days where the world feels too big and overwhelming and I don’t want to leave my bed. I still get days where I feel sad and lonely for no real reason and I definitely still get days where I lose all motivation and cannot for the life of me, get myself to do anything productive. I’ll always have the cloud of depression looming over me but I have learned what my triggers are and how to deal with it.
I am firstly going to mention that I highly, highly recommend that if you are struggling with depression to seek help. While I found it really hard to tell someone that I was depressed, it was a step that led to me being able to get help and to get the appropriate treatment. I know from personal experience, that not dealing with it will only make it worst. Please, seek help, talk to someone, go to the GP, take your medication (if that’s the route you go down), talk to a therapist, do cognitive behavioural therapy, take care of yourself. Do whatever you need to do to get better because beating depression won’t happen on its own.
I also want to mention that most colleges, universities and high schools offer services to help those with mental illnesses. You might not feel the need to take up the considerations offered to you but if something does happen, at least you’ll know what help is available to you.
For me, something that really helped me continue to study while I was depressed was routine. It was one of the only things that helped me maintain a somewhat normal life, instead of burying myself in my depressed mood and staying in bed for days on end.
I went to classes and lectures, scheduled in time for the library and mostly stuck to that routine for an entire year. I also gave myself a certain number of days off, this way I didn’t get into the habit of taking days off every time I didn’t feel like going to class and I saved those for days that I was really feeling horrible and low.
Obviously, I made exceptions for other illnesses and special circumstances but I found that keeping a routine helped me keep up with school work, forced social interaction and it also helped keep my mind on things other than the depression.
Healthy food and exercise
This is such a cliche – eat better and exercise and suddenly you’ll feel better – well, it’s kinda true. I’m not going to go into the science behind endorphins and nutrients and whatnot but I will tell you something, exercise and healthy food work in improving your mood.
Now, I’m not the healthiest eater or the fittest person ever (um, my pantry is currently filled with skittles, potato chips and chocolate and I think the last time I exercised was when I chased my dog down the stairs when he thought my new scarf was a fun chew toy…) but it’s something I’m striving to fix because I know that it’s good for me. If you find yourself in a particularly dark place, try sticking your earphones in and going for a short walk or run. It won’t fix anything but it will leave you feeling a lot less stressed.
Manageable tasks and timeframes
Nobody works well with the stress of a looming deadline and that’s made even worst by depression. I know when I was at my lowest I was completing assessment tasks the morning it was due because I honestly didn’t have the motivation, nor did I care about the outcome but the stress of the situation made me feel horrible.
I’ve since learned that breaking down work into manageable tasks, such as working on chapters or topics and scheduling enough time means less stress. It also means that if I do have a bad day, it’s okay because I’ve given myself a suitable time frame that would have factored in the possibility of a few bad days.
We’ve all heard it a million times but self-care really is important. Make sure that through it all, you take some time to do something to make you happy.
It can be something as trivial as taking a bath or putting on a face mask or it could be something more substantial like scheduling in time to read a novel or sleep in.
Whatever it is, make sure you do something for you that doesn’t involve school or studying.
Be tough on yourself… but not too tough
Okay, this point may or may not be something that will work for others but sometimes I have to get tough with myself. With depression, it’s very easy to get into that negative-life-sucks-what’s-the-point frame of mind and it’s also easy to get lost in that, so I have to get tough on myself, remind myself that things aren’t so bad, that there are people who love me and force myself to get some work done.
But I know when to push it and when I need a break. If I’ve tried to work for an hour or so and still not managed to do anything, then I know to step away. If I can’t focus because my mind is overwhelming me, then I know I need to move on and do something else. Accept that sometimes, you’re not going to get what you need doing, it’s the nature of depression. Give yourself a pat on the back for at least trying.
I think it’s important to know when you need to push yourself and little but to also know your limits. Depression can completely destroy your motivation, so sometimes you just need to force yourself a little but it’s not healthy to force yourself to work all day every day, especially if your body is telling you to stop.
I personally am not a big journal lover. I’ve never kept a journal that I’ve written in for longer than a week but it’s honestly so therapeutic but it was recommended to me by my psychologist.
I take five minutes at the end of each day to clear my mind. Sometimes I write a whole spiel about my day, sometimes I write about what’s stressing me out, or something good that happened that day.
More often than not, I write nothing at all and just doodle all over the page.
It doesn’t matter though because it’s my own personal release where I can do and write whatever I need without fear or worry that I’ll be judged for what is there on the page. It breaks me out of my own head and looking back is such an eye opener and has shown me that you can come so far in such a little amount of time.
If you don’t already, I really do suggest journalling – mental illness or not – as it’s such a cool thing to do.
If you’re suffering from depression and have some tips that haven’t been shared here, please leave them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them!