Mind your mind: Midterm season — a time when students’ tears fall as hard as the rain

It’s hard to keep your chin up when it feels like there’s no end to the studying, the paper-writing and the project-making. It’s even harder when you’re also working, volunteering, organizing extracurricular activities and maintaining some semblance of a social life on the side. You’re over-worked and overwhelmed… maybe to the point that you're past caring about deadlines and grades. Maybe you’re so exhausted you’ve stopped caring about anything in general — even yourself.

Something that has worked for me when I find myself slipping into that grey, apathetic place is doing the opposite of what I usually do. I know, it sounds entirely counter-productive to just stop focusing on school during this time — I’m aware it also requires more energy than you have — but let me explain.

When you are keeping to the same schedule every week, or even every day, it becomes a habit. When something becomes a habit, you wind up mechanically going through motions. You stop thinking actively because you know more or less what to expect throughout your day. Let me guess, it’s probably along the lines of go to class, go to work, go home, study — in other words, survive the day — then sleep and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Break that pattern.

This is one way how depression finds its way into your head. When you let your time and energy be dictated by your schedule, by things outside of your control, you stop being an active participant in your life. This is how you become disenchanted by your surroundings, because you’re so focused on going through the motions to finish each task and get through each day. Before you fall into that hole, force yourself to do something different.

Surprise yourself. Even if you need to muster every last drop of energy, go for a jog by the beach at the end of the day. Even if it takes you longer before you can hit your bed, take a different or new route home. Even if you don’t have that much time before your next class, have your coffee to stay at a café and people-watch for a few minutes.

If you do something different, chances are that you will see something different. Maybe even something new. It might not be world-altering, but a change of pace and environment will stimulate your mind just enough to wake up from the monotony of your day-to-day schedule. It might not make you feel wholly better, especially since doing these things won’t change the fact that you still have a million tasks to finish, but it might keep your from descending too deeply into apathy.

If you find that you are able to, do something bigger. Have a night out with your friends — or have a night in instead, if you’re used to going out all the time. Find a new recipe and cook it, check out a new restaurant, plan a short day-trip for the weekend, take up a dance class, go to a concert — do something you don’t usually do. It will shake you out of your rigid day-to-day pattern and perhaps rejuvenate you enough for when you return to your studies.

It's hard to break established habits and routines, especially during a time when your brainpower is already depleted. Just remember that how you feel won’t change, much less get better, if you don’t put in the effort. So if you feel like you are struggling to find the good things during this time of high stress, be brave enough to put yourself before that exam or paper you need to write. Make something good happen for yourself — just for long enough remind yourself that there are other things, better things, waiting for you outside the classroom, your workplace or even the confines of your own bedroom. Even if you can’t see or remember them, they’re there.

The authors of this column are not mental health professionals. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre.