Sometimes you literally just cannot keep up. Coursework piles up and students fall behind. Classes get missed, or skipped. Maybe the work just doesn’t feel worthwhile right now. Getting out of bed gets that much harder, especially for those who already struggle. You just… can’t.
With winter on its way in the northern hemisphere, these feelings tend to surface more and more. The shorter days have an impact on everybody, especially the nearly 10% of us who have mood disorders such as Depression, Bipolar, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Meanwhile, the pace of the semester only picks up. Some of us have already had midterms or major tests by now, or else have them on the way. This time of year, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed with everything.
First of all, if you’re reading this because you’ve fallen behind: it’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid or a bad person. It’s important that you understand these truths. Being mired in misery won’t mend the mayhem. If you spend the next two months believing you will fail, your chances of failure will skyrocket. Perhaps it’s easier to think of your success or failure as “future you’s” problem; you can only do so much, and it’s less scary to focus on a little bit at a time instead of the entire terrifying picture.
Depending on your situation, there are different questions you can ask yourself to pull forward.
I don’t even know what I don’t know
- How can you figure out what you’re missing? A good place to start may be to go to a class lecture (especially if you’ve been skipping those) and instead of writing proper notes, write down every single question you have. Then bring your questions to your teacher or a trusted classmate, or else try to find the answers using class materials.
- How can you best study without feeling overwhelmed? Cramming can be the antithesis of learning, leaving you even more lost and dazed. Break the material you don’t understand into manageable chunks and go over it a little at a time, with reasonable reviews and breaks.
I have a mood disorder or chronic illness that flares up this time of year
- What accommodations are you legally entitled to? In the United States, schools are legally required to give accommodations for certain conditions, including disabilities and both physical and mental chronic illnesses. This being said, unfortunately some places will fulfil their duties in this area better than others, so tread with caution if you already know you’re not going to be helped.
- Do you have a doctor, therapist, counsellor, etc who you can talk to? You may benefit from an adjustment in your treatment regimen or discussing new strategies. Consider doing research or asking others with your condition for help with specific challenges.
I’m just plain burnt out/depressed and can’t bring myself to do the work
- Can you deliberately skip out on doing the work, instead of putting it off indefinitely? If you already think that you’re going to spend this weekend not doing school work because you’re so overwhelmed, it will do no extra harm to turn that procrastination into a conscious decision. Unintuitive though this may be, you may find that after your mini vacation, you’re much more willing and able to set up a plan to get caught up.
- Is there any help that you have access to, such as a tutor or a responsible friend? Not only will the extra help give you, well, help, but involving another person in the catch-up process adds accountability.
- What can you do to be nice to yourself and take care of yourself in general? It is so, so easy to beat yourself up over this sort of a thing, but it only makes the problems worse.
For anyone who’s starting to struggle this season, I wish you the best of luck with everything. Oh, and remember to do your best to avoid catching colds and to get your flu shot if you can! It’d suck to get sick on top of everything else!