5 Ways I Deal with High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety during Grad School

Posted October 6, 2016 in Life / 7 Comments

Note: I debated writing and posting this for some time. It can be very hard to openly speak of mental illness, particularly when the people in my life don’t always acknowledge that mine even exists. Please remember this is only my own experiences and my own opinions. I am not a doctor nor any type of health professional. I am only a crazy, young woman who likes to pray and read books.

My first post on my mental illness has been my most visited post since I published it. I hope that it has been able to help some people and I hope that this post can do the same.

As those of your who follow my blog already know, I am currently taking online grad school classes as I work towards my Master’s degree. Anyone in grad school can tell you that this is super-stressful. I feel that I am especially affected thanks to my high-functioning depression and anxiety. Grad school makes me crazy busy and, every day, I question my sanity on pursuing higher education.

Anyway, here are five things I do to deal with my high-functioning depression and anxiety during grad school. These are probably applicable to anyone that is in grad school or even college, but I can only speak for myself on that matter.

1. I write EVERYTHING in my planner.

I have a planner that I absolutely love. I use it every day. The first day my online classes opened and I was able to see the syllabus, I wrote every single due date in my planner. For the weekly assignments, I added them during the week they are due. For the papers and anything that might take me more than just a few days to accomplish, I added it for the few weeks preceding its due date so I would remember to work on it.

Currently, this is working out marvelously. It is helping me to feel in control of my academic life which is helping decrease my anxiety. A planner that you are actually going to use is definitely a necessity for any sort of college or grad school.

2. I schedule time into my daily schedule to work on my classes.

This is especially important for any sort of online classes. If you don’t schedule time into your daily schedule, you are likely to forget about the classes or keep putting them off until you don’t have enough time to get everything done.

I schedule specific time every day to work on my grad school classes. For me, this is usually shortly after I get home from work. As I teach at a local elementary school, I get home shortly after 4pm most days. I get myself something small to snack on and then sit down in from of my computer until about 6pm. This gives me a minimum of two scheduled hours every day to work on my classes.

As I mentioned in my previous post about my mental health, I like to have a schedule and work best with a schedule. If I was better about actually using these two hours only from school work instead of procrastinating, I would be doing marvelously in grad school. However, I end up procrastinating and doing A LOT more work than I would like to on Saturdays.

3. I have people who can encourage me when I start doubting everything I’m writing.

My sister is absolutely amazing about reading my weekly assignments (message board discussion posts answering set questions) before I post them. I am notorious for thinking they are never good enough. My sister can assure me that she understands it, so I must be making sense. She doesn’t have much more than a high school knowledge of what I am studying and if she can understand my answers, they are clear enough.

It is great to have someone I trust read my work and assure me it makes sense. I always feel like I’m not good enough, that I fail at everything (even when I don’t). This is something that comes from my depression: I never feel like anything I do is enough. My sister, by reading my weekly paragraphs and longer papers, can help assure me that what I do is enough. And some of the time I actually believe her.

4. I pray… A LOT.

You probably didn’t click on this article and expect to see this point, but it is so true. Prayer helps me A LOT. I like to pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours consists of psalms, canticles, readings, and prayers. It is a beautiful, structured form of prayer that I would recommend to all Christians. The same holds true for the Rosary which meditates on the life of Jesus.

I also pray a lot of what might be called spontaneous prayer. Sometimes these are short aspirations such as “Dear God, please help me with this” or “Jesus, I trust in You, help me through this.” Recently, there have been a lot of quick “Saint Thomas Aquinas, help me understand what you wrote” type of prayers asking Aquinas’s help to understand the Summa. Saint Joseph of Cupertino is also a great saint to ask for prayers for school-related situations and I love his story.

Sometimes I pull out one of the many prayers I have memorized. I love the Saint Michael prayer for when I need to beat procrastination. It actually helps more than I would have anticipated. It is also a great prayer to help keep oneself from temptation and so is always a great prayer to pray.

5. I keep taking my medication as prescribed.

I have a prescription for a reason. I take it because it helps me function the way I am meant to function and I definitely need that during grad school. I have to be on top of my game and the medication I take helps with that. If you have a prescription, make sure you are taking it. Your doctors have prescribed that medication for a reason and you have to take it as prescribed. If you have any questions about your prescription, talk to your doctor. I’m not a doctor and I can’t help you. That’s what doctors are for. I can only say that I know I function better with my medication.

I’m not perfect and these aren’t the only things I do to deal with my high-functioning depression and anxiety. However, these are five things that I know help me (when I remember to use them – remember, I’m not perfect). I hope these five things have given you some ideas. Please let me know what works and what doesn’t for you. I’m always looking for more ways to help deal with my depression and anxiety, especially in school-related situations.


Links on High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety

If you have any experience with this, I’d love to hear about your methods for dealing with depression and anxiety at school.

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7 responses to “5 Ways I Deal with High-Functioning Depression and Anxiety during Grad School

  1. Yes! I really love your point about medication. I once got after someone in my life for not taking theirs, and they responded, “Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve to.” So I started taking a MUCH bigger role in checking that it was happening, because I could see such a difference. I just read recently that the family of the person taking the meds often sees the result before the person taking the meds does, so I think it’s important to give it some time and trust the process.

    Another issue is that if the meds are wrong for you, and you start feeling worse, PLEASE tell your doctor immediately. One of my friends starting having suicidal ideation after switching anxiety meds, and as soon as her doctor heard that and switched meds again, that went away.

    “Just snap out of it,” is the antithesis of helpful; it just makes the person feel shamed and even more worthless. I am so sorry that people are uneducated enough to think it’s okay to say that to someone. I am glad you have found coping mechanisms, seen a doctor, and have the support of your sister. Sharing stories like yours is what will push society towards better understanding of mental illnesses, so I thank you for doing so!

    • If your medication is no longer working, definitely talk to your doctor. And always talk to your family/household. They see things that those of us suffering from mental illness don’t. They can be a wonderful resource.
      Thank you so much for sharing part of your story. That is why I write a post like this. I want everyone to know that they aren’t alone.
      I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  2. I think it’s really important for those suffering from depression to stay connected to others – it’s great that you have your sister to support you in your grad school work. Feeling isolated goes with the territory, but when we can feel our ties to other human beings it makes a light in the darkness.

    It’s also wonderful that your prayer life is so strong. I love the idea of praying to St Thomas Aquinas for help in reading him! I should try that sometime…

  3. I’m so glad that you’ve found some effective ways of dealing with your depression and anxiety and that you feel like you’re making headway. I agree that prayer helps me when I’m feeling anxious. Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, and I’ve found that even a quick, “Lord, I give this day to you. Please help me through it,” can make a world of difference!
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