Tips on Studying With Depression

Tips on Studying With Depression
Some common symptoms of depression include: lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. So, it’s barely surprising that studying whilst simultaneously struggling with depression can seem an impossible task. Nonetheless, just because you suffer from depression doesn’t mean you get excluded from responsibility and that means you are still expected to sit your exams in January, get your essay in by the deadline and keep up with your work – whether that be at school, sixth form or university.
I’m experiencing this problem at the minute. Next week is exam week at my university and I’m struggling to find the motivation and focus to sit down and actually read through my notes. At times like these I prefer to bury my head in the sand and ignore all knowledge that I am actually going to be sitting these exams in no less than one weeks time, instead finding numerous other irrelevant and pointless tasks to invest my time into. I think this is what they call ‘procrastination’ (something I am somewhat an expert in).
Just now I sat down to start revising, switched on my laptop, my revision notes are laid out right in front of my face, and yet somehow I’ve ended up writing this blog post…
So, how do you muster up the motivation to get something productive done when your brain is doing it’s bloomin’ upmost to prevent it? I will attempt to share with you some tips which sometimes help me when I’m feeling this way (and then I will proceed to not take my own advice).

1) Begin

Often, the hardest part is starting. I know I have the habit of putting things off until it creates a much bigger problem than it needed to be. So, get over that first hurdle and encourage yourself to just start. You might find that things flow on from there without too much bother.

2) Break your work up into manageable amounts

There’s no point overloading yourself with work or telling yourself that you are going to get all of it done in one single sitting, you will basically be setting yourself up to fail. Because, the fact of the matter is: nobody can maintain focus on their work for hours on end without needing a break. Instead, try and set yourself manageable amounts of work to complete at a time. Tell yourself you will spend 20 minutes revising and then take a break, or you will get one paragraph of your essay done and then have a rest. It may feel like it isn’t worth it but trust me, it will probably be far more useful than forcing yourself to study until you burn out.

3) Take breaks

I sort of mentioned this in the previous point, but remember to give yourself regular breaks when you are working. This will give you a chance to refresh and make it easier to focus again when you return to whatever it is you were doing. Make yourself a cup of tea, have a snack. Do whatever it is that you need to do to keep you going, which leads me on to my next point…

4) Look after you

Basic human needs don’t become any less important just because you have an essay in for tomorrow or an exam to sit next week. Remember to stay hydrated, eat enough and get enough sleep even when you are in the midst of revision. How can you expect yourself to be able to concentrate if you aren’t even looking after your basic health?

5) Remove distractions

I will always find an excuse to not sit down and revise:

I need to organise my stationary first, how can I work if I can’t find my pencils?!

I need to clean the sink before I can revise, else I obviously won’t be able to focus on anything but the sink!

Now is as good a time as ever to reorganise my wardrobe by colour and clothing item! 🙂

It’s impossible to remove all distractions but if there are certain things that you know will draw your attention away from your work, remove it from sight. Turn off your phone and put it in a draw. Whatever it is, try and make it so that the only thing you can focus on is the work that is in front of you.

6) Give yourself some credit

Your depression is not your fault. Feeling unmotivated and therefore struggling with your work is not your fault and it doesn’t make you lazy. I know how it feels and if you’re anything like me, you still have high expectations of yourself and desperately want to succeed, yet do not have the energy to revise as much as you’d like. Rather than focusing on how little work you’re doing, focus on what you have achieved. Even managing to do a bit of work whilst battling with your own mind day in, day out is a huge achievement, and don’t forget that.

I hope at least some of these tips were helpful. I am now going to try them out myself and hopefully get some revision done! Good luck if like me, you have exams coming up or if you’ve got essays to do. Depression can make everything seem a great deal harder, but there are things you can do to make things even a tiny bit easier for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

– Lisa x


  1. January 8, 2018 / 11:03 pm

    I really like your tip about breaking things up in 20-30 min breaks. This would be extremely helpful in reducing the amount of stress that is often self-inflicted due to all or nothing thinking. I’ll have to be sure to start chunking everything out in more manageable pieces.

    • lisa.woodley
      January 9, 2018 / 8:35 am

      I’m so glad that you found it helpful! Yes, I can definitely empathise with the ‘all or nothing’ type thinking – I often struggle with that myself. I’m slowly learning that I can actually be a lot more productive if I take things step by step, rather than exhausting myself by trying to do too much at once.

  2. Anonymous
    January 5, 2017 / 9:51 pm

    good plan stan!

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