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Swathi Sasikumar

Swathi is a post-graduate student at the University of Melbourne. When she's not working, she's either studying her cat or indulging in TV shows.

6 tips for managing stress and anxiety of studying during COVID-19

Many of us who endured the rapid transition to online studies during the emergence of COVID-19 might feel like we’re hanging by a thread during this pandemic. And for those who had hoped to return to university as I do, we might be dreading another semester of online classes as the pandemic continues across the world.

I’m certain we’ve all got divided opinions when it comes to online learning. While some of us rejoice at the thought of not having to wake up early and face the commute to morning classes, some of us feel stressed out about the massive workload that’s going to befall upon us as a result.

For those like myself, online learning is one of the least appealing methods of learning, and it was a really difficult adjustment for me.

Here are a few pointers I’ve learned during the uncertainty of the first semester of 2020 (with a few upgrades) to help you manage the stress and anxiety through a semester of online studies during COVID-19.

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1. Plan and prepare for your classes

I can already hear a collective groan but hear me out. Keeping up with online classes takes a whole load of stress off your shoulders.

When my university migrated to online platforms during the first wave of the pandemic, I remember procrastinating for weeks. I reasoned with myself that I’d be able to catch up eventually since all the materials were available online.

However, my anxiety peaked during mid-term assessments when I had to comb through massive files of information and missed out on significant discussions during the tutorials. My grades inevitably took a slump, and I learned my lesson the hard way.

Even if you’re unable to prepare for classes in advance, ensure you attend the tutorials and listen to the lectures regularly.

2. Talk to friends and family

Uni friends are half the reason that makes university life memorable. Although for many of us it’s not possible to connect with them face to face or socialise the way we have before the pandemic, we can still connect with them through regular calls or video meetups to talk about classes or just about anything.

It’s also harder to retain a sense of university spirit when you’re not on campus. Thankfully, many university events have shifted digitally, so you can still join student union groups, clubs, events and activities to keep connected with your peers and your university community.

Talk to your family as well. Share your worries and anxieties about the semester with them. Talking openly about the issues that stress you out can be a breather after spending a long day before the laptop screen.

Don’t let loneliness consume you during your semester of online studies, because it’ll do more damage than good.

3. Reach out to professors for help whenever necessary

Although professors and tutors seem to constantly pump out video lectures, face-to-face tutorials, assignments and other activities, they’re very aware of the situation we’re in. Chances are, they’re also trying to beat the COVID blues as well.

Hence, they might be open to have a conversation with you and will be receptive if you take the first step to reach out. So, don’t hesitate to seek assistance or advice when you need it.

For me personally, all it took was one email to my professor requesting help and I was provided with numerous resources to help me overcome some issues – both personal and academic-related.

So, if you’re struggling with adjusting to online learning or your workload, I highly recommend reach out to your professor or tutor in times of need.

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4. Look after your physical health

The ultimate reason for lockdowns, restrictions and mandatory quarantine is to safeguard our health. And staying glued to our laptop and cellphone screens within the four walls of our room for extended periods of time is detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing.

Therefore, it’s essential to eat healthy, do some stretching or exercises every day. Most importantly, maintain a regular sleeping pattern to wake up fresh and perform tasks for the day.  

Going to bed at the early hours in the morning will not only affect your physical condition but also impact your studies.

5. Take breaks at regular intervals

I’ve saved this pointer for a separate section because for me, taking a break is not only the favorite part of the day but really important reminder for us to avoid physical strain and mental burnout.

Studying during this pandemic hasn’t been easy for most students. We go through mood swings and a rollercoaster of emotions much more than before. So, it’s not ideal to spend all day working or studying.

Don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up for taking too many breaks. Because the current situation calls for it and it’s absolutely healthy to clear your head by indulging in your favorite shows or spending time on new hobbies.

It’s also essential for our eye health. This might sound unbelievable, but I had to get my eyes checked recently due to blurry vision. Turns out, I was spending too long on laptops and cellphones without taking breaks, and needless to say, I had to change my glasses.

So, if you’re like me and prone to spending all day staring at a screen then it’s important to spend time looking out of the window to ‘refresh’ your eyes from time to time. Your eyes will thank you for it.

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6. Prioritise your mental health

Just as vital as your physical health is also your mental health. Make sure you’re not spending too much time on social media that it’s burning you out or causing you to procrastinate your studies.

It’s easy to get carried away by the negativity that comes in the form of misinformation or the picture-perfect presentation of your friends on social media during lockdown. So, if you’re scrolling on social media a lot then you must be mindful about what you’re exposing yourself to.

During the pandemic, a lot of us have been overwhelmed with the state of things, and this has given way to negative thoughts. When you identify yourself worrying or overthinking about something, take a step back and analyse the situation. If you think you can’t handle the anxiety or the stress that follows, talk to your family or trusted friends.

Sharing our concerns with supportive people can dwindle anxiety to a great extent. But if you notice that you’re not coping, seek professional help. Your university will have free and completely confidential mental health and academic support services that can help you get through stressful times that won’t show up on your grades or any academic records.

Lastly, make sure you also schedule in time for your hobbies. It’s very important to keep up with your hobbies and interests or discover new ones, especially any that can take you away from constantly staring at a screen all day and night.

Whether we like it or not, COVID -19 is not going anywhere, at least not for a while. The key is to adapt, prepare and adjust to the ‘new normal’ to get through your studies. Remember to remind yourself that help is readily available whenever you need it, and rest assured this too shall pass.

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