Last year, when I started this website, I talked about my experiences in first year university in an essay named “Blood, Sweat, Tears, One Year”. This time I wish to detail the strategies that helped me see my second year to its end.
A changed environment at home, coupled with summer burnout led to a rocky start of the 2014-2015 academic year. In any case I was determined to see the year through successfully and enjoy the journey along the way. I had discontinued several extracurriculars over the summer that I wasn’t passionate about, and undertaken a couple of new ones for the year. Both of them helped me immensely in the realms of writing & public speaking. My courses became more interesting  and reaffirmed the decision I felt as though I made so long ago, as high school was winding down, to choose psychology as my major. Courses like ‘PSYC 2110 – Developmental Psychology’, and ‘PSYC 2210 – Learning’ convinced me that I was still passionate about working with children, where I could help them grow & develop as individuals. I continued to box and do Muay Thai throughout the year and even experimented with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
However, overshadowing all this growth was a detrimental state of mind. A feeling of depression and its close ally, anxiety, was always close by. It was as if they resided in my shadow, and came back to me when the sun set, when the lights turned off, when my mind wasn’t occupied; causing many sleepless nights. If I was lucky enough I could bob my head above water for a couple days, maybe a week before those thoughts crept back in. It felt as though I was controlled by circumstance, instead of rolling with the punches. Unfortunately the stigma associated with mental health makes people wary about airing out how they truly feel to the world. And with good reason. How our peers perceive us is of great importance and affects many aspects of our lives. We go day to day asking each other “how are you” as if it’s an automatic response. Any delineation from answering with “fine” or “good” makes us seem like we flew over the cuckoo’s nest with Nicholson. As if we are wasting your time. If more people talked about mental health, and their experience with it, the stigma towards it would decrease and people would function more effectively.
This is a story about how I was able to manage depression and anxiety in my life after my second year of university, and continue to keep those monkeys off my back. 
One Day at a Time
Lao Tzu once said that if you are depressed you are looking to the past, if you are anxious you are looking to the future, and if you are at peace then you are focused on the present. I started to apply this wisdom by taking life one day at a time. Dale Carnegie called this approach “time-packets”. By focusing on the list of things I had to do that day I didn’t have time to think about the past or the future – I was intimately engaged with the present, and consequently stayed productive. Each day suddenly became brighter, because I was enjoying what I had on my plate instead of thinking of what I should of ate or was going to eat. Now that I look back I realize that I have compiled hundreds of these days, these “time-packets”. As if each day was the only day.
That’s the first way I tricked my mind out of depressed and anxious thoughts. A certain amount of planning and preparation is required to sustain this, for the next day, for events, etcetera… but in the bigger picture these aspects of readiness become the frame upon which your days hang.
Demand More of Yourself (Step Out of Your Comfort Zone)
How many times have you thought to yourself that you are not deserving of some achievement or that you can’t succeed in a certain endeavour? Too many times to count, right? Unfortunately this is written into our culture – we are stifled by our parents, teachers, *insert authority figure here*, and even our very own peer group, if we aren’t careful. These negative voices act as catalysts for our own fear, for our deepest fear.
As we move through our life we tend to encounter two types of people: those that inspire us to action and others that depress us, and our goals. What is inspiration? Physically it is the process of the drawing in of breath, of your chest expanding, shoulders rolling, standing tall. Mentally we feel the same way when we are inspired – we stand tall and face the music. Now when we take a look at depression – we see something get pressed downward, lowered. That’s why you feel stuck in a rut when you are depressed; you feel hopeless to change your situation. It’s interesting to think about how much language affects the way we perceive our environment.
At the risk of sounding cliché that is what it comes down too – the beliefs you hold onto. If you wake up everyday saying that you can’t do something then it won’t happen. Your thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Your brain understands thoughts of depression and anxiety in much the same way. Your subconscious mind readily laps that up and continues to apply those thoughts through you unless you willingly change your mindset.
“Remember, no more effort is required to aim high in life, to demand abundance and prosperity, than is required to accept misery and poverty. A great poet has correctly stated this universal truth through these lines:
Demand more of yourself, more out of life… go after it, and you WILL receive it. Don’t be afraid to reach farther.
Stay Patient, Embrace the Grind
You will not be able to lift a veil of negative energy overnight… like any worthwhile endeavour this will take time, and with it – patience. Promise to yourself that you will get out of bed every morning to work on moving on from those shadows. Keeping in mind to move one day at a time, you will soon arrive at a point – a month, 6 months, or a year from now, where you wake up feeling as though you’re out of the woods and you can finally see the sun. This is an unforgiving time, and every minute of every day you will feel a pull toward depression, or a pull toward anxiety in the next moment. As ironic as it sounds you will want to retreat to your rut. Fight the feeling. You will feel it because it is easier to do so than try to grow, to become the best version of YOU. When those thoughts come to mind remember this prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference. 
Remember that thought is one of the only aspects of your life that you can completely control and can therefore change. Manage that and you will manage your situation for the better…
Saved By the Bell
The academic year wasn’t ending fast enough, and the strike wasn’t helping the situation - it had become a long winter. Luckily summer came just at the right time for me to recharge.
Over the summer of 2015 I had continued working in clinical research as well as more specific patient care with an independent clinic. I had also went back to camp as a camp counsellor (missed the previous year due to summer classes and other work related responsibilities – which I inevitably regretted) and truly enjoyed connecting with old friends and working with kids in an effort to aid their personal growth.
Now that third year is starting I’m taking a lot more interesting courses, delving deeper into research, exercising my mind and my body through books and boxing, regaining connections with old friends/maintaining new ones, and doing what I need to do to get to where I want to be.
If you believe that symptoms of anxiety/depression apply to you remember to take life one day at a time, to demand more of yourself (and do it), and to embrace the grind that is required of you, and your dreams. These concepts helped me, and I hope their application helps you.
Keep your chin up, keep moving.
1. Psychology students at YorkU may only take one psychology course in first year (PSYC 1010 - Intro to Psychology), and then with each year we can take more and more specific psychology courses (abnormal psychology, personality, psycholinguistics, etc.).
2. Please note that my way of dealing with these problems may differ greatly from other people and trusted psychological/psychiatric methods. I may not even have had a full-fledged version of anxiety or depression; I may have simply been overly nervous/sad at certain points during the previous year. I will be detailing the differences between those aspects in future essays. The reason I use the terms depression and anxiety to describe my own experiences is because they are aspects that are well recognized but not talked about enough in the community. I am not a certified psychologist nor have I completed medical school and become a psychiatrist so I strongly suggest you see a professional if you feel as though depression and/or anxiety applies to you. If you’re a university student your university should have a counselling service specifically tailored for you. Information about York University’s counselling service (CDS) can be found here.
3. You don’t need to be religious in a traditional sense for this prayer to work for you. It works like any form of meditation by calming your mind and helping you understand what to do next.