Stress and anxiety can be dangerous in mental health conditions. If you feel like you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, you are not alone. This article contains strategies that may be useful, as well as links to mental health resources. Please do not hesitate to seek help! We are all in this together.
The pandemic has taken a toll on many students this year. It’s affected their ability to communicate with their peers and instructors freely, reduced their productivity and made tackling their workload more challenging. It’s also isolated students from the traditional collaborative educational environment that’s so conducive to their growth.
With all these difficulties at hand, it’s clear why so many students have anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, they can gain the upper hand during these rapidly changing times by practicing some tips and techniques to reduce anxiety and feel better about their stress, coursework, and overall lives.
COVID stress relief tips
There’s no doubt that distance learning affects mental health, but there are ways to reduce students’ stress and anxiety in these trying times.
The most crucial step to reducing stress and managing students’ mental health is prevention. While this might sound cliche, it’s much easier said than done. Preventing stress in your daily life will translate to a less stressful online learning experience.
The first step in stress prevention is practicing self-care. Self-care is a personal endeavour, tailored to each individual’s needs, but the baseline is the same. Here are some self-care tips to improve your daily life and reduce stress while studying:
- Rest: A good night’s sleep will significantly improve your ability to focus for more extended periods.
- Comfort: Make sure you’re comfortable while studying. Adjust your posture, sit in a comfortable position, or even invest in a good office chair.
- Take breaks: Take frequent study breaks throughout the day to revitalize your mind and stretch your body. We recommend taking five minutes every hour to walk around, practice deep breathing, or just get some fresh air outside your home to relieve stress.
- Positive space: Changing your study space can have a considerable impact on your ability to learn. Find a positive space that inspires you and feels conducive to your online learning experience. This space could be a conventional office type set up or even a cozy corner in your home.
- Avoid burnout: Burnout is detrimental to learning and productivity. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed, take action immediately to ensure you don’t push yourself too far.
- Avoid social media: While it’s a great tool to stay in touch with friends and stay informed while practicing social distancing, it can also lead to reading the news, COVID numbers and make you feel anxious. While doing school work, take breaks that allow you to step away from the screens and enjoy the present moment.
How to cope with a heavy course load
Even before the pandemic, students struggled to manage heavy course loads. It’s not uncommon for students to feel that part of the post-secondary experience is cramming for exams, submitting assignments at 11:59 pm, pulling an “all-nighter,” and studying with no sleep.
However, since most of the world has shifted to 100% distance education, students now have to tackle online learning challenges with their mental and physical health at the forefront. If you’re a student, here’s how we recommend dealing with your course load:
- Divide and conquer: Divide your studying or work into digestible pieces. Tackling one chapter or subject at a time, rather than focussing on your entire workload is the best way to work productively.
- Don’t procrastinate: Avoiding leaving your work until the last minute. Procrastination is one of the leading causes of burnout. Ensure you give yourself enough time to complete assignments, and don’t wait until the last possible second to work on them.
- Set a schedule: Give yourself a standard school-day schedule throughout the school year. Wake up on time and start studying as if you were still physically going to class. Keeping a routine will allow your brain to stay productive.
- Know when to ask for help!: It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed, but don’t let that be why you miss a deadline. Reach out to your instructor for an extension or assistance with your work.
How and when to ask for an extension
Asking for an extension can feel intimidating, but there’s nothing wrong with needing extra time. Everyone learns and works differently. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many students suffer from anxiety and mental health issues, preventing them from completing work at their usual pace. Understanding when and how to ask for an extension will help ease some of that anxiety.
- Be proactive: Be proactive in asking for your extension. As soon as you begin to feel overwhelmed, let your instructor know that you need more time.
- Don’t procrastinate: Like studying, don’t wait until the last minute to ask your instructor for an extension. Negotiating extra time at the last moment doesn’t allow your instructor a window to provide honest feedback or guidance to help with the assignment submission. Most instructors appreciate their students’ efforts to stay organized, so it’s always better to reach out before a deadline than after.
- Be honest: Practice having an open dialogue with your instructor and let them know when you’re struggling. If your mental health affects your work, talk with your instructor about adjusting your course load.
- Send a reminder: Once your extension is confirmed, send a reminder to your instructor to avoid any confusion or mixed signals. If you correspond via email or online, make sure there’s a clear message stating changes.
- Manage your expectations: Some instructors are less sympathetic than others when it comes to students’ struggles. It’s crucial not to take it personally. If an instructor refuses an extension, you must take a step back and evaluate how much you can handle, and rearrange as needed. Sometimes staying healthy is worth taking a lower grade on an assessment.
- Don’t be hard on yourself: This is the most crucial step! It’s OK to ask for help. Remind yourself that you are not alone. Don’t feel bad for needing extra time; coping with stress while practicing remote learning as a full-time student means being empathetic to yourself. Remember when you’re feeling pressured to excel, that school is only the first step in the rest of your life. Ultimately your health is worth protecting!
To read more about how to study during the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning effects on mental health or practicing online learning for the first time, check out more articles from our blog!
For help dealing with stress or anxiety-related mental health crisis:
- Search for and access your institution’s mental health resources
- Check out School Mental Health Ontario’s programming and resources
- Reach out to Kids Help Phone (Canada) at 1-800-668-6868 or the Your Life Your Voice Hotline (USA) at 1-800-448-3000