It’s that time of year- that special time of year when the semester isn’t brand new anymore, and if it was ever exciting at all, the excitement has worn off.
That special time of the semester when all your motivation and good intentions and routines begin to fall by the wayside if you, like me, live with chemical imbalance.
But fear not! I’m here to help. What are my qualifications?
· 2 years of associates work
· 2 years of bachelor’s work
· 4 ish years of grad school, in which I had two children AND taught
· 2 years of teaching college freshmen
· A heaping serving of Attention Deficit Disorder with Major Depressive Disorder and a side of Generalized anxiety.
GOOD TIMES! 👍
Now. I got through all of that with a 3.8 GPA, and if I can do it, so can you. Here is a list of the most useful tools and lessons I’ve learned navigating school with chemical imbalance.
1. Use a pen-and-paper planner.
Now, I know a lot of people who say they don’t like pen to paper. I know what you’re going to say.
“But I just use my phone” or “I use my phone calendar” or “I just put it on my tablet.”
Ok. If you’re neurotypical, then that will probably work for you. But I have NEVER known someone who lives with ADD, Depression or Anxiety who are able to be productive using electronic calendars alone. And this makes sense! Those of us with chemical imbalance retain information better when we can touch it or feel it with another of our senses. Especially those of us with ADD.
Grab yourself a pen and paper planner. It will change your life. I personally love my Happy Planner from MAMBI, but there are so many great options! I love following Faith over at Radical Transformation Project. She has a FREE printable planner system that looks amazing! Maybe give her’s a try! Or you can always go with a cheap, simple agenda from your school or target. You can buy pretty ones, plain ones, big ones or small ones. Whatever it looks like- just get one.
2. Make Use of your alarms
I know I just told you to use a pen and paper planner, but don’t ditch that phone calendar just yet. Use the HECK out of alarms. I have at least 3 alarms going off on any given day. One to take my pills on time, and if I have any appointments or (when I was a student) any important deadlines anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours before the appointed time. Lay everything out on paper, but remind yourself about it with your phone. Without my alarms, I forget to even look at my precious planner which I use EVERY SINGLE DAY, and a planner is useless if you’re not…. well, using it!
3. Schedule “office hours” and STICK TO THEM.
When you know your schedule for the semester, assign specific times that will be your work hours every single week. This semester, I teach on M/W/F, and so my “office hours” are Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7-9pm. My husband and girls know this ahead of time, and prepare accordingly. And if something fun comes up during one of those nights, well I miss out on it. (Unless it’s REALLY important. Like the IT premiere because DUH.) Knowing that you have an allotted time to tackle your to-dos is essential to preventing anxiety before it stops.
4. Create a list of TOP THREE PRIORITIES and keep it running.
Depression is tricky. Some days you’re fine, others you can’t find the energy to do anything but lay in bed. To prepare for those inevitable days, keep a Top 3 list going, and do those priorities anytime you’re feeling good and energized. Have a paper due Sunday but you feel like garbage Friday? Well if you’ve constantly kept up with the little tasks in order of priority, you should be able to ensure you have enough done to at least get partial credit.
5. Be open with your professors.
As both a former professional student and amateur professor, I know the importance of honesty. When I was going through particularly rough patches, (Remember my antenatal depression story? Half of that was while I was simultaneously taking AND teaching classes. 😵) being honest with my professors ALWAYS paid off. Your teachers want you to do well. We really, really do. I can’t speak for all professors, but in my experience teachers are willing to support you when you need it. Being the perfectionist I am, I RARELY missed deadlines. But if I needed to, I would always start with honesty. “Hey Dr. M. I’m going through a rough couple of days and my depression is kicking my butt. Could I please have some help with _____ or have a couple extra days?” Emails like this will take you a very long way.
What are you Semester Survival Strategies? I’d love to hear what’s in your tool box.