All over the world, universities have made the decision to go online for the coming semester. This means that students will be living at home and logging into their classes remotely. The distance learning or online learning model brings a lot of huge changes to college and student life. For one thing, students aren’t living on or near campus; many university students are living with their parents or in their hometowns while distance learning. Plus, most of the extra-curricular and social activities that college students rely on for blowing off steam have been limited or called off.
All of these new factors are taking a huge toll on students: during the course of pandemic online learning, students have reported much higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. So, what can a student do to prevent, manage, and mitigate this “new normal” in university? Here are some of the top tips, according to trained psychologists.
Manage Your Expectations
There’s no way around it: distance learning just isn’t the same as being on campus. The first step to managing the stress and anxiety of being off-campus this semester is to start by managing your expectations. You have to keep clear and attainable goals in mind when it comes to distance learning, and your goals and expectations for the semester will play a huge role in how well you adapt. There are three places where managing expectations is crucial: between you and your professors, between you and your family and/or housemates, and between you and yourself.
With Your Professors
As soon as you can, you should find out exactly what your professors will be expecting of you this semester, and you should be clear and reasonable as to what you expect from them, as well. If you don’t get a clear sense of the professors’ expectations from their syllabi, you can always shoot them a quick and professional email asking for clarification. Remember, professors and instructors are also trying to adapt and make the best of distance learning, and communicating clearly about expectations for your education and course of study is key to adapting successfully.
With Your Family / Housemates
If you’re not living on campus this semester, then the chances are you’re living with either your family or some housemates. If you’re not living alone, then your online college experience is bound to impact your family and/or your housemates. This can cause some stress or friction in those relationships. However, you can prevent and mitigate some of this friction by being open with them about your schedule and your needs. Likewise, you should find ways in which you can compromise. Communicating openly – which includes listening actively and being willing to meet others in the middle – about your expectations and goals during the distance learning process can help prevent and reduce stress for you and your family/housemates alike!
Managing these close family and/housemate relationships isn’t always easy, so talking to counselor might be a great option for you. With BetterHelp, you can get individual or group counseling. Some counseling, whether it’s individually or with your family, can help you and your family members communicate more effectively. Since open and effective communication is the key to managing expectations and mitigating stress during this time of academic transition, counselling with BetterHelp is a great option. Check out BetterHelp’s Twitter for more encouraging thoughts and information: https://twitter.com/betterhelp?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
This is probably one of the hardest areas to manage expectations. It’s hard to be away from the community of the campus and from the support of friends and classmates. It’s difficult to do classwork without the reward of social activities and campus life. And it’s okay to feel the loss of that campus life. However, dealing with those feelings shouldn’t take a huge toll on your schoolwork. You have to manage the expectations that you have of yourself: don’t let the pressure to be perfect lead to burnout, and don’t let a temporary dip in morale lead to neglecting your schoolwork. In this case, it’s all about balance. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your expectations and strike that balance, you might consider talking to a therapist at BetterHelp about ways to manage expectations and self-image so that you can continue with a successful semester.
Set a Clear Schedule
One of the biggest traps that students fall into when it comes to studying from home is procrastination. College students are infamous for their procrastination skills, whether it’s cramming during finals week or cranking out a term paper during an all-nighter in the library. However, even without the time commitments distractions of campus life, it’s easy to mismanage time while studying remotely.
The best way to avoid procrastination is to make – and stick to – a clear schedule. This master schedule should include a plan for each day, week, and semester. If you’re having trouble writing a clear schedule, the best place to start is with the syllabi of your classes. Open up a calendar (it can be a paper calendar, or an app on your computer or phone) and enter the dates and times of all your exams and assignments. This is will give you a clear idea of what needs to be prioritized. You might also want to enter reminders a week before each exam and assignment, just to spare yourself any unpleasant surprises!
Once you’ve gotten the exams and assignments entered into the calendar, it’s time to add any lectures, meetings, or online seminars that you’re expected to attend. Then, for each week of the semester, write down a few tasks that need to be completed so that you don’t fall behind on your assignments or exams. These could be chapters that you need to read, a word count that you need to reach, or important communication that you need to complete by the end of each week.
Of course, each student has their own system when it comes to scheduling and keeping a calendar. But if you don’t know what your system is yet, now is the time to figure it out! Once you’ve set up your schedule, the most important thing is to stick to it! Sticking to a schedule isn’t always fun, but it will help curb your procrastination, along with your stress levels, throughout the semester as you study online.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Even if you’re at home doing distance learning for the coming semester, that’s no excuse to let your diet and exercise slip out of control! While you might not have the university’s gym at your disposal or a thousand options from the dining hall, it’s important to keep up healthy habits. Maintaining healthy habits, even while you’re spending your semester studying online, is a crucial part of maintaining good mental health.
Make some time in your schedule each day for physical exercise. You don’t have to be training for a marathon or anything: just get your body moving for at least half an hour each day. This is a perfect chance to learn a new sport or activity. Activities like yoga, jump roping, and hula hooping are great when you’re stuck at home, and they’re great ways to blow off steam and keep that body healthy. Who knows? You might find others who enjoy that same sport when you get back to campus!
Distance learning is not easy, and neither is the adjustment to online university from home. However, if you’re adamant about managing expectations by staying clear and open with communication, sticking to a clear schedule throughout the whole semester, and keeping a healthy diet and exercise regimen, you can avoid and mitigate some of the stress of distance learning. Adapting to the new normal doesn’t have to lead to so much stress, anxiety, and/or depression.
However, if you feel that the stress, anxiety, and/or depression of studying online or being away from campus is too much to handle, you can always talk with a therapist or psychologist. Ask your university about mental health services and other resources to help you adapt to distance learning.