Whether it’s just the winter blues or a diagnosis of depression, the state of your mood can really affect the quality of a person’s writing and even the way in which they write.
When I was in high school, I began taking control of my depression, but there are still days where I’m not at my best. If those days happen to coincide with a deadline, it can really throw off my work. Over the years, I’ve developed a few methods of keeping up with my work while dealing with depression.
My first step in writing a paper is usually sitting down with my laptop in my apartment, but when I’m not feeling my best, that can be counterproductive. Being in my apartment can keep me in that negative headspace where I feel like I can’t do anything but curl up in bed.
My suggestion if you feel the same way is to go somewhere with a different surrounding. I usually head to the library, but coffee shops can also work. Being in an environment different from my apartment makes me focus on the work I need to get done. I tend to be a homebody, so if anything, it gives me motivation to finish my assignment and head back home. The other plus is that there aren’t decorations that mean anything to me so I’m less likely to get distracted. The photo of coffee beans at Starbucks doesn’t hold the same memories to me as the collage of pictures of my friends that I have in my room.
Focus on one thing at a time
Depression and anxiety aren’t always unrelated, especially in college students. When you’re already feeling down, taking a look at all you have on your to-do list can feel devastating. Compartmentalizing really helps me because completing one small task feels like such an accomplishment. If you have a particularly challenging or dreadful paper to write, make your outline first. Once you have your outline, just write in your sentences one point at a time. Soon you’ll have a completed paper that you just need to reformat to look like an essay.
Now, this is going off the assumption that you are like me and leave your assignments to the last minute, but this can also work if you plan ahead. Work on one part of your paper each day. Research one topic at a time. Complete part of one section rather than a little bit of each. Tackling one topic at a time reduces the stress of the overall assignment.
Listen to whatever feels right
Sometimes when you’re sad, listening to sad music makes you feel better, sometimes upbeat music helps. If you like listening to music while you write, don’t deprive yourself of that. Whether you’re in the mood to listen to some upbeat pop like Taylor Swift, some indie-folk like Elliott Smith, or some old-school punk like the Clash, do it. Connecting to music is empowering, so listen to your jams before or while you type.
Some people can’t write while listening to music or there is no music that can fit how you’re feeling. If that’s the case, don’t push it. This idea is about your comfort. Take a few moments to decide what you think will help you get through writing.
Talk to your friends
If there’s someone you’re comfortable talking to them, tell them about what you’re going through. For me, keeping it in can distract me from what I need to do. Just telling someone I trust how I’m feeling can help me focus. It can be scary to admit you aren’t feeling the best, especially when there isn’t a definitive cause of why you’re down, but talking to someone can give you the encouragement to get your work done.
If you don’t feel comfortable discussing these topics with people you know, there are people and services that can help. If you’re a student at DePaul, check out the University Counseling Services . If you aren’t a student, you can use crisischat.org or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800)273-TALK to talk to people who are trained to deal with these topics.
Feeling down or having depression isn’t the greatest thing in the world. Some days you may struggle more than others, especially with the stress of a due date or deadline coming up, but there are ways you can get through it. If you use any of these methods or if you have some methods of your own that you find helpful, please leave your comments below!