By Jenilyn Badge
The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, especially in the fields of healthcare, mobility, and education. Many of the imposed restrictions, meant to prevent the spread of the disease and promote public health, have been negatively affecting mental health in the UK, with a study revealing that 57% reported symptoms of anxiety and 64% showed common signs of depression.
In addition, most interactions with the outside world are now virtual, creating new challenges and highlighting the digital divide, especially with regard to online learning. In fact, the National Union of Students’ 2020 survey found that 18% lacked the necessary support in finances, counselling, and personalised teaching, while one-fifth of students struggled with technological access.
With the end of this pandemic “driven by data not dates,” some forms of distance learning will continue to be a reality for many students. The good news is that we can always adapt, using the following tips to control some of the stresses associated with online learning.
First is better time management. One of the most suggested ways to study efficiently is the Pomodoro technique. This requires you to break down your work into accomplishable pieces that you can do 25 minutes at a time. After that time period, you can take a short five- to ten-minute break. You can repeat the 30-minute Pomodoro cycle until the task is completed, or until you have to move on to the next topic. This study technique allows you to absorb more information as you digest it in more understandable chunks, while also improving your attention span and concentration.
Another crucial step is to set physical boundaries. Find a workspace in your home that is separate from your personal space. Carving out a personal space at times when you are stuck working and studying at home might be incredibly difficult, but it is highly recommended, as these places should not overlap. This can help you avoid distractions, maximise productivity, and allow rest and recreation when needed.
We are all craving face-to-face interactions, but despite not physically attending school with your classmates, you can still study with them! Use online messaging to your advantage — bounce ideas with them, collaborate on given tasks, and maybe even relax together during your free time. This can help you avoid feelings of loneliness, which can worsen stress and anxiety.
Physical activity should also not be set aside, even though it may not always easily fit into your schedule, because it is a time-tested way of managing stress. Even something as simple as a brisk ten-minute walk can do wonders for your mood. If you have pets, you could take them on a walk before your day of learning begins.
Meanwhile, other people have started running or even doing yoga, as the latter has also been found to provide plenty of benefits for your mind and body, like improving sleep and relieving pain. This can be especially useful because blue light from devices can negatively affect our sleep, and sitting at a computer for hours at a time can cause joint aches and pains. Traditionally, it is recommended to do yoga early in the morning, which is a good time to energise yourself and jump-start your day, but you can also do it right before going to sleep to calm yourself down.
Life as a college student is already difficult enough to manage, even without the added stress of a global health crisis. With so much going on around us, it’s important to find positivity and motivation in the little things as we all continue to navigate the ‘new normal’. However, we all cope differently, so it is up to you to find whichever methods of stress management work best for you.