Combatting The Duck Syndrome

Hello everyone!

Today, I will be discussing ways of combatting the Duck Syndrome. You may have vaguely heard of the term, but for those who haven’t, the Duck Syndrome refers to college and graduate students who may seem completely calm on the surface while in reality, they are frantically trying to keep up with the demands of their life. To utilize it as a metaphor, when you see ducks, they may seem completely calm and composed on the surface of the water, but if you look below, you will see that they are frantically paddling to try and keep their feathery-bodies afloat. 

Unfortunately, many college students adopt the mentality of “fake it ’til you make it”, which ultimately, mirrors the Duck Syndrome. You may think that this mentality is good advice, but many students that follow this mentality suffer from clinical depression and anxiety as a result of this. You may find it hard to believe (or maybe not), but some students believe that with whatever they are struggling with at the moment, whether it’s stress or anxiety or even exhaustion, will eventually go away. And sometimes it does. But, more often than not, these feelings and bouts of depression will return, time and time again, and could potentially morph into something worse if not treated in a timely manner. 

As a college student, I know first-hand what it’s like to juggle a million things at once. I wake up earlier and earlier everyday, hoping that for once, I will be able to accomplish every single thing that I have jotted down on my to-do list. But, unfortunately, sometimes my lists aren’t reasonable. And when I haven’t crossed out everything that I needed to get done for that day, I get angry and upset with myself. Why can’t I get 20+ tasks done in one day? Why is it that everyone else around me seem to be handling things with ease, while I feel like I am constantly drowning, day after day?

If you sometimes feel like this, you might be experiencing the Duck Syndrome. And don’t worry, you’re not alone. Hundreds and thousands of students across the nation struggle with this mentality, and it can be overwhelming and detrimental to your physical and mental health. 

So, I came up with a few ideas that have helped me to combat the Duck Syndrome – things that really helped me to stop, take a step back, and re-evaluate, on a different perspective, on what I have accomplished so far. Instead of looking at what else you have left to do on your list, start assessing what you have already done and how much work and effort you have put into those crossed-out tasks. This really helps to see yourself in a different light. Instead of being more self-critical and trying to figure out how to stay afloat, you can take time for yourself so that when you come back to your work, you will feel more refreshed and energized to seize the day.


1.) Have a morning/evening routine. 

Having a routine that you can follow can really help to set up your day for success. For me, in the mornings, I always like to make my bed, make iced-matcha for myself, and then sit down in front of my laptop and go through things that don’t cause a lot of stress and brain-power for me – checking my emails, watching 1-2 YouTube videos, texting my family “Good morning”, reading the New York Times. Okay, maybe the last one might cause a little bit of stress, but it’s always good to stay informed about what’s going on around the world. If you are the type of person who always gets stressed when reading/watching the news, then maybe it’s a good idea for you to do that towards the evening, so that you can focus on other things throughout the day. 

2.) Jot down 3 things that you are grateful for everyday.

Studies have shown that if you write down three things that you are grateful for everyday, it helps to effectively increase your happiness and reduce your depression. Gratitude can really help you to be more appreciative with what you have right now and to not be too hard on yourself. For example, though I am absolutely exhausted with being a full-time student, doing a work-study job, and being a part of a few extracurriculars, I am still grateful that 1.) I have the opportunity to pursue higher education 2.) I’m able to make some money to help pay for my tuition/rent and 3.) I have the time to explore other interests. 

3.) Invest time in a hobby. 

Guys. Please. Don’t make everything about school and work. Of course, school and work and other responsibilities will take up the majority of your time, but you should also make time for yourself. Whether it’s watching an episode or two of a Netflix show every night, or reading for thirty minutes before you go to sleep, or learning photography on your free time – you should make time for yourself. 

Having hobbies will help you to destress and relax after a long day of school and work. If you’re constantly working and working, you will attain burn-out soon enough, and it can really take a huge toll on your mental health. So, please, try to find some time out of your day to relax. It can really do you wonders. 

4.) Get at least 8 hours of sleep. 

I know this is an obvious one, but in order to function and get things done effectively, you need to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Please don’t try to pull all-nighters (even though I know you will) or wake up extremely early in the morning to get work done (I know I’m guilty of this!). In order to process materials properly and to keep your mental health from falling apart, you need to get roughly 7 – 8 hours of sleep.

I’m not going to tell you that studies have shown that an individual improves drastically on their work and productivity if they get the right amount of sleep, because you already know that. But, please. Just try and take a power-nap in the middle of the day or try going to bed before 12 AM. It won’t help you or anyone else if you are sleep deprived and on the verge of collapsing. 


I know that many of us struggle with the Duck Syndrome, and it’s hard to step out of this mentality. It won’t be an overnight success, of course, but if you try to take time for yourselves and remember how far you have come, it will be much easier to deal with the Duck Syndrome. 

Good luck to everyone and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors! 

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