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Introduction

In early 2020, schools had to quickly shift to online learning. While online classes have been around for many years, the shift was so quick and drastic. The concept of online classes seemed simple at first. Listening to lectures from the comfort of your own home seems like a dream, right? Not exactly.

When classes had to be done online, students from all over the world reported feeling stress fatigue and suffering from adjustment issues. Not too long after shifting to online classes, everyone—students, teachers, and other school staff—complained of experiencing burn out, among other mental-health related concerns. In this article, I will share some ways to manage your stress levels.

Related reading: How to Motivate Yourself to Study – 10 Science Backed Tips 

Stress for students

Stress can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is good when it propels a student to become productive and achieve goals that they set. Stress is bad when it is unmanaged and it affects a person’s physical and mental health, preventing them from being productive.

Students have to be able to manage their stress levels because this is the only way to survive the stress of taking online classes. Moreover, learning how to manage stress is an important skill to have as they enter adulthood and the workforce.

Below are some tips that you can try. Bear in mind that not everything will work for you. These are just some suggestions. Feel free to try any or all of them.

Tip #1: Focus

Of the many things on a student’s plate amid the distractions and disruptions at home, students have to train themselves to focus on their classes. It can be especially difficult if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. The good thing is, the mind can be trained to focus.

One tried and tested way to help the mind focus is through meditation. Contrary to popular belief, meditation teaches us not to clear our minds, but to focus on one thing, and that is the present moment. Take a seat with the eyes closed and the spine straight. Close your eyes and breath slowly and deeply. Focus on your breathing.

This is exactly why many mediation practitioners choose to do it in the morning. Start the day feeling focus and centered before heading out into the online world. Training the mind to focus is not easy, takes a lot of time and effort, but over time, it can alter the brain.

Tip #2: Begin with an end in mind 

Attend your online class with a goal in mind, and at the same time, be mindful of your circumstances and challenges. When it comes to goal setting, it is best to makes ones that are doable and not too lofty.

Setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals will help you set realistic goals, and take steps towards achieving them. It’s good to work hard, but definitely helps to know what you are working towards and what to do to get there.

When setting goals, try to state them in a positive statement—instead of “I don’t want to fail in Chemistry”, you can state it as “Understand the Chemistry formulas and concepts well”. Set your priorities accordingly so that you can work towards achieving your goals..

Plan your schedule around achieving your goals. Going back to the “chemistry” example, if you’re having a hard time with the course content, then schedule extra study time. If necessary, look for a study buddy or a tutor.

Write your goal down on your journal, make it your smartphone wallpaper, put it up on your wall. It’s good to be reminded of your goals in case you get tempted to watch an extra episode of your favorite show.

Tip #3: Be organized

Being organized is an asset, especially when it comes to online classes. Even though the school provides the schedule of classes and takes care of the course content, it’s up to you to create an environment that is conducive to learning.

Setup a study area where there is good lighting, clear from clutter, and free from distractions. Clutter and disturbances can affect your ability to focus, and even cause stress. Keeping your study area clean and well-lit will help you focus on the class. 

Aside from having an organized study area, students also have to be good at managing themselves. When attending online classes, you have to be responsible for yourself and for your learning.

Being organized is an important step towards being able to manage the situations you might encounter and ultimately guide yourself towards accomplishing the tasks that you have to do.

Being organized helps combat procrastination and minimize stress.

Set a weekly schedule for classes, meetings, chores, errands and personal activities that you need to accomplish. If you’re looking at a daily schedule, you might feel overwhelmed with the things that you have to accomplish, but when you plan for the week ahead, you might realize that you have more time than you think.

Tip #4: Have a daily routine

Being organized will be helpful with creating and maintaining a daily routine that works for you.

Having a routine is important because it allows to plan your day in a such a way that you can be productive, making sure to have time for everything (academics, household responsibilities, self-care).

An example of a healthy routine would be to get up at 6:00am every morning, drink some water and do light stretches. Some would incorporate a 5-minute meditation session to help clear the mind. A routine does not have to take a full hour if all you have is 20 minutes to yourself.

Create a routine that you can commit to. The point of having the routine is to put you in the right mindset so that you can focus on your online task, and still have the time to accomplish day-to-day household chores and responsibilities.

Tip #5: Breathing and mindfulness

Breathing exercises are helpful in managing stress and anxiety. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you’re probably not thinking clearly and breathing properly. This can lead do bigger problems like having panic attacks, hyperventilating and other psychosomatic responses to stress.

One simple trick to nip stress in the bud is to take a few deep breaths when facing a stressful situation. Doing so allows the person to think clearly and find solutions to the concerns they are facing. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere. All you need is a couple of minutes—some opt to find a quiet corner

Mindfulness teaches people to be in the present moment. This means letting go of things that are beyond one’s control. The practice of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist traditions, but clinicians often use mindfulness techniques to help alleviates stress, feelings of overwhelm and helplessness.

Tip #6: Affirmations

Get into the habit of positive thinking. Affirmations are short positive statements that encourages positive thoughts. Some examples of affirmations:

(1) “Accept the things that I cannot control and work on the things that I can”,

(2) “I am enough”, and

(3) “I will be okay”.

Choose one mantra for yourself. Make it a short one so it’s easy to remember. Keep these positive messages to yourself. Affirmations can help shift negative thought patterns that pop up when we are stressed. Affirmations can help a person gain some semblance of control and optimism when a wave of stress and negativity threatens to drown you. Recite your mantra whenever you feel the onset of stress and negative thoughts. If done repeatedly over time, it can boost your self-confidence.

Tip #7: Sleep

You need to let yourself recuperate from the stressful time that you have during the day. Doctors recommend having 7-8 hours of sleep every night, which is the ideal amount of time to allow yourself to rest and recover from an entire day’s rush.

Having enough rest is key to decreasing one’s stress levels, but unfortunately, sleep can disrupt a person’s sleeping patterns. To solve this, you have to create a sleep routine.

Similar to the morning routine I mentioned earlier, the goal of this routine is to have the mindset to wind down and rest. You can do this by taking a shower and doing an evening skin care routine. Put your gadgets away and turn off the TV for at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Light a lavender scented candle if you need to.

Tip #8: Exercise

Engaging in any sort of physical activity such as running, hiking, yoga help relieve stress by taking your mind off of the things that you are worried about. Exercising helps release endorphins, the happy hormone. That “high” you feel from doing a quick run or a brisk walk uphill is caused by the endorphins. It can help lift your mood and decrease the feelings of stress.

You can squeeze in exercise at any point during the day. It’s particularly helpful to do back and hip stretches every couple of hours. Sitting around for extended periods of time is terrible for the body. You have to keep it moving to avoid losing function. 

The key is to find activities that you enjoy enough to want to do them a few times a week.

You can do shorter bursts of exercise if you’re particularly busy. After all, a 15-minute sweat session is better than none. 

Tip #9: Talk to someone

Do not hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend, family member or mental health professional to help you get through a rough patch.

Feelings of loneliness and isolation exacerbate an already difficult situation such as taking online classes. Find the right person to talk to. While it’s good to vent out frustrations to friends, doing this repeatedly can be counterproductive.

Find the people that can actually help make the situation better. If you are having problems with how the online classes are being conducted, talk to your principal or a school administrator. For subject-related concerns, talk to your subject teacher.

These people can help you deal with feelings of anxiety and stress, but they can also teach you good habits to help you move forward. There are a lot of wonderful free online resources that you can look into for assistance.

Stress is inevitable

Strictly speaking, any sort of activity can be defined as stress. Sometimes, a little stress and pressure can help bring out a person’s potential. It is in these difficult situations that a person is able to use their skills and talents.

Rather than avoiding activities and situations that can be stressful, it’s better to face the stress head on and manage it. The tips listed above aim to help students cope with the stress of online classes, but they can also be applied in other situations.

Final Thoughts

Online classes is stressful to both teachers and students. It is impossible to get rid of all sources of stress because in reality, a little stress can be a good thing. The best thing to do would be to deploy various strategies to manage stress so that you can focus on online class and be able to do other things.

In the absence of the physical presence of teachers and the sound of the bell in the schools hallway, you really have to learn how to be internally motivated and disciplined to be able to survive online class while being able to take care of yourself.

Be patient with yourself if you’re struggling with the minor adjustment to your routine. I suggest trying out one tip, and see how it works out for you. Find one that works for you and stick with it.

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Patricia Alfonso

Patricia Alfonso is an educator and researcher who earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Ateneo de Manila. She specializes in developing school counseling programs for schools.

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