Though depression can be a taboo subject in American society, it is not uncommon. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Additionally, depression is the second most common mental illness amongst college students, according to the American Psychological Association. Depression can seem like a life-consuming illness. So how do you manage depression and schoolwork?
The first step in thriving academically despite your depression is to adjust your course load. Sadly, this step requires a great deal of introspection. Taking the time to study your behavior. Do certain circumstances lead to an increase in depressive episodes? Are there certain triggers you need to avoid due to your depression? Are there specific times that your depression is at its height? Knowing these things about yourself can help you decide what kind of course load you want to sign up for. For example, if you find that your depression is more prevalent in the fall season, you may want to take a lighter course load during the fall semesters. Or maybe you find that you struggle the most during the morning, so you may want to take afternoon classes. Perhaps you find that having too much free time contributes to your depression, so you may want to take an extra class. Designing your course load in a way that minimizes stress can help you succeed even when your depression is rearing its ugly head.
The second most important way to succeed in school despite depression is to talk to your professors. Though I’ve written about it before, I cannot overstate the importance of informing your professors about your illness. Opening up to your professors about your struggle with depression can not only provide you with support, but it can provide your professors with the information he or she needs to help you succeed. Treating depression can involve a whole host of time-consuming activities, such as frequent doctors visits, trying new medications, or attending therapy. As these responsibilities pile on, it can become difficult to attend class or complete assignments. If your professor is aware of your struggles, they can help you work out a way to keep up with your schoolwork. Should you find yourself struggling to open up to your professors in person, consider emailing them instead.
Once you’ve made these changes in your academic environment, it is time to make more personal lifestyle changes. Depression can manipulate your sense of time and cause you to lose interest in things that you once loved. One way to start reclaiming your life from depression is to set small goals. Setting small, achievable goals can give your day a sense of purpose and personal achievement. If you’re not sure which goals you’d like to set, spend some time in reflection. Which lifestyle changes do you wish you could change the most? What aspects of your depression do you most wish to change? If you have a difficult time attending classes regularly, make that your central goal for the semester. Or if you find that procrastinating on assignments greatly contributes to your depression, make finishing homework quickly your goal.
Finally, when juggling school and depression, recognize that setbacks are normal. It can be easy to become frustrated with yourself if your depression worsens or returns after a period of health. However, ruminating on your hardships and personal failures will only keep you from moving forward. Forgiving yourself for your shortcomings and choosing to move forward despite your frustration is the most difficult part of navigating depression, but it’s the only way.