Anyone who has ever felt blue for more than two weeks knows how difficult it is to bring oneself to do anything at all, let alone study, during these times of trial.
In fact, it turns into a vicious cycle – the more you push yourself to study, the more you are unable (yes, practically incapable) to do it, and the more your due assignments and missed lectures and exam preparations start to accumulate, the worse you feel about yourself.
Thoughts like “I’m so lazy,” or “I should really force myself to study instead of wasting so much time,” keep popping up whenever you look at a book, or even think of studies. That in turn makes you more sad and depressed.
How does one break out of this seemingly never-ending downward spiral? It’s not a solution to skip assignments, or even whole semesters. You can’t let this ugly monster defeat you! But how to fight back? As a fellow sufferer, comrade in battle, I have found the following tips useful.
1- Have a Clear Understanding of the Situation
In order to defeat an enemy force, you need to plan ahead. The obvious first step is to find out as much about them as possible: how many are they? What weapons have they brought? How many tanks have they got?
So learn about depression – What causes it? What are its symptoms? Is it really my fault that I’ve got it? Is it curable? And is it true, as often we are reminded by our close ones, that I can study if I just ‘try’? Is it a ‘real’ disease? And so on.
2- Know How to Break Out of it
We saw how one gets stuck in the vicious cycle. But how do we break out of this? Simply by cutting off one of them. We can’t control our emotions, and it seems a bit hard at the time to study.
So what’s left is changing the negative thoughts. Whenever a negative thought comes to mind, analyze it objectively, blast it off. Would I call myself lazy if I had malaria? Depression is just as real as malaria. In fact it’s worse because it’s harder to treat.
3- Deal with the Problem Objectively
Ask yourself – what is the worst possible thing that can happen? Then come to terms with the worst. A huge load will be off your shoulders, preparing you to deal with the problem objectively.
4- Ask Allah to Open Your Heart
Realize that Allah controls everything. He gives knowledge to whom He wills. Even if you studied 20 hours a day, it wouldn’t benefit you if He didn’t open your heart and mind to it. So make a lot of dua and leave it to Allah.
O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy. (Ibn Hibban)
5- Plan Your Schedule
Make a list of the ways you study, for example listening to lectures, taking notes, memorizing etc.
Now rank these according to level of difficulty, for example:
Level 1: Listening to old lectures, revising old notes
Level 2: Taking notes, reading new material, listening to new lecture
Level 3: Making tables and mind-maps
Level 4: Recalling, answering questions, writing assignment.
Now it’s time for action – start, in the name of Allah – with your level 1.
Intend, not to pressure yourself, but to enjoy your study. Start in small steps – go as much as you’re comfortable with but not further.
Once you start feeling stressed, stop immediately. Relax, and after a few hours try again. Once you successfully spend some actual time studying, you’ll start feeling better about yourself.
And once your engine has started, your car’s ready to run! You’ll probably say to yourself, ‘That wasn’t so bad!’ And you’ll feel like doing more, and will be able to step up to levels 2, 3 and 4 quite easily in sha Allah.