For context, I'm an engineering student nearing the end of my degree and I've been tutoring algebra, calculus, and statistics for years, so I'm not a newbie to math. It's only really been an issue in the past year or so as I've taken more theory intensive classes involving lots of long derivations full of algebraic manipulation and calculus tricks -- I found myself skipping over them entirely because it feels too overwhelming trying to parse through all the notation, even though it's usually notation I'm plenty familiar with and have no issue with in smaller doses. Let's take this as an simpler example that I was just a little while ago having the same issue with:
when I see the differential equations, my instinct is just to skip over them, even though doing that means the textual portion of the article won't make much sense.
I can make myself slow down and mentally parse the syntax, but doing so can be mentally exhausting if there's a whole lot lines similar to lines 2 and 3 in the above example. I think at least part of it is that mathematical notation is simply a lot more information dense than English, and so trying to mentally "pronounce" all the symbols or even a verbal description of a larger "word" (e.g. "d squared x squared of p naught u" vs "second derivative with respect to x of p naught u") results in a lot more mental "speaking" than the amount of space taken up on the page would imply. That, for lack of a better word, "misleading" visual makes me associate it with an inordinate amount of mental effort.
I had asked a friend with more mathematical maturity than me for advice and he said that he sees the notation as more analogous to diagrams than letters and words, so he doesn't usually try to mentally "pronounce" it. I tried thinking of it that way, which seemed to help at first, mostly because it helped me focus more on larger expressions as a whole, instead of trying to parse each individual piece, but I have a hard time really comprehending the information that way unless I mentally describe the "diagrams" to myself (something like, "ok, a second derivative, a first derivative, u, coefficients of p_i equal to squigly L u of x") which doesn't save that much mental effort. But more than that even, I often get so focused on trying mentally parse/describe the notation that I loose sight of the bigger picture, of what it is that's being derived or the like.
Oh, I should probably also mention that I don't typically have trouble with writing long derivations and calculations -- I'm actually pretty competent with LaTex and I regularly do my assignments using it (those I use an extension that shows me preview of the rendered version in real time, so I can more easily see what I'm doing). I'll also often write out sentences describing/explaining each step in words. I think the reason I struggle with reading such things but not writing them is that, when I'm writing out my own work, I often already have the big picture strategy mapped out in my head, plus, it's emotionally satisfying to translate the general outline in my head to a neat and organized step-by-step solution on the screen. Also, many engineering textbook derivations are almost entirely just algebraic manipulations and the like, with very little explanatory text interspersed, whereas I almost never write out my own work like that -- I either write the purpose/reasoning for each non-obvious (to me) step in a separate sentence/phrase, and/or if I'm doing the work in code (I frequently make use of Python's NumPy and SymPy libraries to speed up calculations and derivations), I name the variables and/or functions very descriptively, which serves essentially the same purpose.
Finally, I did see this question, which is similar to mine, but the two helpful answers (the last one basically just says "practice makes perfect") focus on visualizing the concepts the symbols represent. And, while I completely agree doing that can be incredibly useful in aiding comprehension, and I actually do it instinctively when I have an idea of how to do so. But when it comes to something like differential equations, which is what most of the derivations in my classes have focused on recently (mainly the Schrodinger equation and Maxwell's equations), there typically isn't any obvious visualization for all the steps. Even though I often have a mental picture of the quantities represented by each variable (e.g. position, EM field, electron energy level), that doesn't really help with comprehending all the different operators being applied or all the different manipulations being done to the equations, not because I don't understand the individual operators or the algebra or even because I don't have mental pictures of what they mean (sometimes I do, sometimes not), but because I don't have a picture/visualization of how everything fits together in long and complicated derivations and trying to come up with one for every single derivation would take an inordinate amount of time.
How can I improve my comprehension skills in this regard, so that it's not such a discouraging mental workload to read even small derivations or other mathematical content and so that I don't lose sight of the bigger picture, missing the forest for the trees? Should I try to come up with visualizations for everything? Or is there a better way?