Studying with seasonal depression

by Zali Bland

Winter makes most people cranky.

We’re cold, our skin is dry, and it’s usually raining. Seasonal depression is to be expected, even in neurotypical folks (read: people who don’t experience mental illness/es in their everyday lives). Beating depression – even seasonal depression – is all about doing the opposite of what you want to do.

Make a list of smaller tasks

So, as much as we don’t want to, forcing ourselves to work is the best thing we can do for ourselves and our studies. This is only difficult if you go about it in unrealistic ways. Small, manageable tasks and a productive workspace will make everything seem easier when all you want to do is stay warm in bed, even though you’re doing the same amount of work.

Summarise what to do for assignments

Set up your assignments with a saved word doc. Title page, font choice, and a basic summary of what you need to do. (I personally do this with all of my assignments before session even begins. My depression is still napping at that point and it gives me a head start.)

Make a place to study

Find a study space. Somewhere you won’t get distracted. The library is great, but bring snacks, a water bottle, and warm clothes. Don’t give yourself excuses to leave before you achieve whatever you’ve decided to do that day/time period. At home is also fine, but leave your phone in another room, and don’t study on your bed. You’ll trick your brain into thinking it’s sleep time.

Break assignments up into chunks

Break it up into chunks. If it’s a 2000 word assignment, give yourself four days to do it, and take it 500 words at a time. The introduction is always the hardest part, so give yourself a fifth day just for the intro if necessary. No one will know but you. (Actually, your marker might know because your assignment won’t have I-wrote-2000-words-in-one-night quality.)

Remember as you do your study, work to your attention span. If your concentration is poor give yourself permission to take an active break every 20 minutes for just a couple of minutes. Pomodoro apps can keep you on track.

Get just the right amount of sleep

Unhealthy coping mechanisms for seasonal depression include overeating, oversleeping, or general lethargy. Eating too much (usually of the wrong thing) can make you feel sluggish and uncomfortable, which usually leads to not wanting to do anything but watch Netflix and/or nap it off. Oversleeping is just a time suck. Obviously, we all need enough sleep. There is a difference, though, between getting a healthy 8-9 hours a night and sleeping into the mid-afternoon. Feeding your lethargy only breeds more lethargy, so these behaviours aren’t doing you any good. They impact your studies, and they impact you personally.

Keep going

The most important rule for winter productivity is this: no hibernating. Rug up, buy yourself a coffee (it would be way too hypocritical of me to lecture about caffeine being bad for you but use a keep cup, please), and start. Just start.

Support is here if you need it

If you need to talk to someone, you can book a free appointment with a student counsellor at Charles Sturt University. Or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.