Can You Study During a Depressive Episode?

Classrooms Team

Jan 9, 2021

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Whether you’re in high school, college, or even graduate school, mental health troubles don’t discriminate. Depression is a difficult thing to deal with, especially when you have a plate full of responsibilities. While one of your first thoughts and impulses might be to ask, “How can I study with depression?” in an effort to power through, examining the situation and making positive, sustained changes may require digging a bit deeper. Even if you can study during a particularly difficult depressive episode, jumping into the books might not be what’s best for you academically, or for your health.

Every person is different in their mental health journey, and some people require a bit of normalcy and balance while others need rest and care. There is no magic answer aside from looking into your own needs carefully and tactfully. While a bit of studying might be right for some people when they’re feeling the brunt of their depression, others need to fully rest and recover in order to heal in the moment. There is no one solution. However, there are a few things you may want to consider if you’re trying to study with depression.

Should Studying Be Your Priority?

This is the biggest question you should ask yourself if you’re trying to pull yourself together simply to hit the books. While school can sometimes feel like it needs to take precedence over everything else in your life, your health needs to come first. If your mental or physical health is compromised, the foundation you build the rest of your life on will be troubled. You won’t study at your best anyway because your health will be in need of attention. Simply put, you won’t be in a position to study as effectively as possible.

When you’re depressed, you may have trouble concentrating, keeping sustained interest, or mustering the energy to focus on your studies. In order to help you study better, the answer will often lie in caring for your mental health first before you think too much about the specifics of life. Your health should come first. You can get healthy without studying, but you can’t truly dive into your studies without being healthy.

How Are You Coping?

Examining your coping strategies is another way to take a look at your situation. If you’re patching together your coping skills so you can get out of bed and study — or using studying as a coping mechanism so as not to focus on your health — you might have a bit of a problem on your hands. Turn to your coping skills out of a genuine desire to better your health and well being, not as a way to achieve an arbitrary goal or grade. You can’t fake self care. Try turning to coping strategies that work for you and genuinely help your mental health. Spend some time with them.

Caring for Yourself

While coping and self care are often viewed as the same thing, self care holds a specific role, especially for those who happen to be struggling with mental illness like depression. While some people think of self care as little luxuries like face masks and bubble baths, real and necessary self care is so much more than that. Self care is eating something today. Self care is cleaning your room, drinking water, and doing your laundry. It’s taking your medicine, getting enough sleep each night, and talking to friends and loved ones.

Simply put, when your needs aren’t taken care of and your physical health and environments suffer, your mental health and your studying will probably not feel easy. You need to care for yourself and show yourself kindness before you demand things of yourself. Your health is a part of you. Grades and studies change, but you will always be with you, and it’s important to show care to yourself before you pile on anything else.

Finding Balance

That being said, you may still want to study. Maybe you’re coping well, but you need a bit of extra push. That’s where balance comes in. Sometimes, when you’re doing everything you can, sitting down for a long study session or pulling an all nighter for a project feels impossible. That’s why finding a bit of balance can do a lot for both your mental health and your academic life.

While you don’t have to cast studying aside, you also don’t have to make it your whole life. Remember that any progress is better than nothing. Breaking your study sessions down into small chunks and prioritizing tasks can help you put things into perspective and focus on your most important tasks. You can study with depression, as long as you know it’s right for you in the moment and you don’t overwhelm yourself.

You Can Study With Depression — But Take It Easy

Having depression doesn’t mean you can’t study — but it also doesn’t mean you’re obligated to study, either. You should always put your health first and reach out if you need help. By using healthy coping skills and practicing self care, you can find balance and figure out what’s right for you, whether that means you softly hit the books, or cut yourself some slack.

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