Secondary education in America matters. It matters a lot. Regardless of if you want to go to college, it has been noted for some time that attending is becoming less of a choice, and more of a requirement. But what about when mental or physical issues get in the way of a fruitful college experience?
Depression, anxiety and ADHD, what I once saw described as the “millennial cocktail,” can do just that. Here I’ll tackle that cocktail with advice based on firsthand experience.
Dealing with mental health problems at this point in life can be extra difficult because of the sheer amount of things happening around you. Juggling schoolwork, a social life and your first taste of political involvement while only getting five hours of sleep.
Sound familiar? If so, the first thing you can change is getting the recommended eight hours of sleep every night. In spite of the temptations by the internet or what have you, nothing contributes more inconspicuously to unhappiness than sleep deprivation. Even if you’re getting enough sleep to function, you’re not your best self when you’re tired. That might seem obvious, but what isn’t is the way that small amounts of sleep deprivation can compound invisibly to contribute to the problems you’re already having.
Get rest, even if you have work to do. You’ll get more done in the long run and be happier, too.
Speaking of getting stuff done, pace yourself. College workloads can be enormous, but it’s only possible to do one thing at a time. So, deal with your workload accordingly — even if you’re backlogged. Make a list of everything you need to do. Depression can make you nervous about writing everything down because then you need to confront it, but doing so means that you can start checking things off your to-do list.
Getting over your issues and finding happiness for yourself is much easier when you can spend your free time fully experiencing the moment, without nagging thoughts of tasks undone.
On the flip side, set aside time to not do work — even if you have work to do. This helps you remember that work and play is a balance and not a binary. Your life is more than waiting to do work and it’s important to remember that.
Finally, admit it to yourself and others when something isn’t right. This one was the hardest for me. If I had been able to recognize something was wrong earlier, I could have saved myself from a fair amount of hardship. Just because you could always rely on yourself in the past doesn’t mean that you need to in the future. Speak up. Friends, peers and educators are more understanding in real life than in your self-constructed reality.
If the feelings persist beyond what’s discussed here, speak to a professional. Don’t feel guilty over chemical imbalances in your brain that you can’t control. If you’re depressed, you’re not weak, you’re not useless and you’re not alone. But you are sick, and you can become healthy again.
We all deserve a shot at happiness, being depressed can make us forget that, but keeping it in mind will help you heal.