I think breaking everything down into very small, discrete, manageable tasks is important. Rather than thinking “I have to read a lot of information from difficult texts or else there will be bad consequences” consider focusing on one portion of one text and make a moderate goal. Create a fictional audience for yourself and teach that audience. Do this by making an outline covering one area of one chapter of one book for one day of the week. Try to habituate thinking in these very micro terms so things don’t seem overwhelming. In scuba diving, when panic occurs due to excess nitrogen, the idea is to get your visual field managed by moving up very close to something and study tiny details. Even holding your dive watch in front of your eyes and looking closely at details can help calm the mind, focus it, and eliminate excess.
The idea is similar when feeling overwhelmed and depressed with too many things to do. Peel away distractions and overwhelming thoughts and focus on tiny details. Start making short YouTube videos for yourself, for instance five minutes in length, each of which covers a different part of the textbooks you need to study. YouTube is great for this because you have the option to keep them private, or partially publish them only for those you give the link to, or make them entirely public.
Some accountability helps. If you become brave enough to start publishing your videos, and people start watching, it starts creating momentum and expectation from others that there will be future videos.
It will help you organize your mind. Make outlines and small, reasonable plans. Be realistic. Review often!
Build in many planned break times, too. I find that something completely alternate, such as some sort of fantasy video game on an Xbox or PlayStation (because it’s far away from a computer screen), helps to move completely out of the cerebral, intellectual space. Or watching mystery series, for instance.
Get lots and lots of exercise. Lots of walks. A good diet. Lots of vitamin B. Gardening is a really terrific pastime if you have access to the earth. Growing things is such a fundamental part of our nature. Growing plants which the bees are thankful for, and which please people who see them, is incredibly gratifying, and reminds us how deeply connected we are with one another and all of creation.
Try to remain as social as possible. Living inside of books and computers isolates us. We still need to see human faces in front of us. Depression makes relationships very challenging. It can lead to very negative thinking; we start believing our negative thoughts: “Things will never change. People seem to be withdrawing from me” and so on. Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to challenge your thoughts. “Wait a minute…and I truly catching every red light on the highway like my mind says? In fact, look at that, there’s another green light that I went through. And another, and another.” “Wow, that person has reached out to me again, they must really care about me.”
“Wow, look at that - a perfect stranger on the internet took all that time to respond to me with his personal thoughts and experiences - it’s remarkable how a complete stranger must care about me so much to write all that and give it careful thought!”
Once we begin to turn our thinking inside out, miracles can really happen inside the brain.
For myself, I reached a point where I needed professional therapy, however. Sometimes no matter how much work and effort we put into getting our ship righted, we still need another human being to take our hand and lead us to a different place. I hope that if you reach that point you will have the courage and resources to take any necessary step.
You are incredibly important in the universe, no matter how you see yourself, no matter if you “succeed or fail” according to how the world judges us. You will always be incredibly important, and valued. And loved.