Megan Schrantz, Ed.D., LPCC
Students everywhere are struggling to engage in their studies meaningfully during the coronavirus crisis. For now, gone are the comfortable routines, activities, and structured in-person expectations of the school week.
Children, teenagers, and college students need adequate sleep, healthy meals, and regular exercise. Healthy habits are particularly important for young people who may be struggling with anxiety or depression. Losing reliable routines can be a big source of stress. Many students feel unfocused and unproductive. It’s ok to dial down expectations of oneself and others.
It’s important to simply acknowledge your feelings. It is normal to feel worried, lonely, and frustrated. Here are some strategies for students of all ages to thrive during this unusual time:
Stick to your pre-coronavirus routine. Although students are likely sleeping in a bit later, it is helpful to wake up and go to bed at about the same time as on a regular school night.
Move your body. The recommendation to hunker down does not prevent going for a walk, bike ride, run, or just playing outside (assuming you’re not in complete quarantine). Movement is a great way to relieve stress, notice the big wide world, and get fresh air.
Sleep. Sleep restores us like nothing else. Create a sleep schedule to wake up about the same time every day, which can add some structure to your day and help regulate your circadian rhythm. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, with predictable times to wake up and go to bed, is especially important in maintaining a positive mood and the ability to fulfill academic expectations.
Limit video game time. Enough said.
Take care of your mental health. Practice mindfulness. Being mindful helps us to slow down and reduces anxiety. A few deep breaths can reduce stress. Play outside and notice the magical changes of spring. Being mindful for one minute can be a welcome change from worries, and it can help us to focus on what’s truly important.
Maintain social connections. Those connections can mean the world. Check in on others, including family members, friends, and classmates. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know you care. Imagine what you can do virtually, in pairs, in small groups, or in larger gatherings! Dance, sing, read, play games, create.
Mix it up. If you’re staring at a screen too long, take a break, move around, and shift your gaze. Limit news-watching to reduce anxiety. If you crave a change of scenery, take a walk, or if you can’t get outside, escape into a book or creative activity. Make up a game. Try a wacky science project. Plan for an optimistic future- think of what you can look forward to.
It can be a challenge to structure your day when all classes are from home. These ideas can help establish a more comfortable and efficient routine.
Make a plan. Consider unplugging from time to time to supplement digital apps and online learning portals with a paper planner or notebook. Recording assignments and projects in a paper planner can help you learn and remember your schedule.
Create a cozy and ideal learning environment. Make a “classroom” free of unwanted distractions. Keep all needed materials organized in one place.
Hide or put down the phone!! Close all unnecessary tabs when in learning mode. Quiet all notifications.
After studying, practice explaining what you’ve learned. If you can explain the lesson to someone else, then your studying has paid off. A simple but effective study tip is to describe what you studied. There are several ways you can do this while still observing social distancing:
- Practice explaining what you’ve learned to family members.
- Practice virtually with friends online.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
- Record yourself explaining what you’ve learned.
Study with friends … online. We all crave social interaction in learning environments. Consider organizing virtual study groups with your friends to get your dose of socializing while staying at home, and to hold each other accountable to academic goals.
Limit social media. Too much social media wastes time and can be a source of stress or uncertainty.
Break up learning into chunks of time. Try to finish your work when school would be over for the day. After “school hours”, do something fun and relaxing.
Ask for help. Teachers are available online. It’s ok to ask parents for help, too.