Dealing with Student Stress in the Time of COVID-19

Your classes may now be virtual. You’re probably stuck at home, where you’re missing friends and finding studying difficult. Your family might have lost funding or jobs. Whether you’re in grade school or college, you’re probably feeling anxious, sad, and uncertain. These feelings are normal, and there are ways to lessen student stress.

1. Practice self-care. Basic self-care will keep your immune system strong and your emotional reserves full. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat well. Try mindfulness apps or find activities that engage different parts of your brain. Do something physical like dancing. Occupy your mind with puzzles. Engage your senses with hot baths or fragrant candles. Look for tasks you can postpone or simply eliminate from your to-do list to reduce student stress.

2. Find ways to focus. You might feel unmotivated right now. Don’t judge yourself; the current circumstances are hard for everyone, so just do the best you can. Establishing a routine can really help. Get up, go to bed, and do your work at the same time every day. Frequent breaks can help you re-engage in your work as well. Try to create a separate work space, as you should reserve your sleeping area for sleeping. If family members are distracting you, use “I statements” to explain the problem–“I’m worried about my exam next week”—and work together to develop solutions.

student stress3. Seek out social support. Your classmates have probably scattered, and having to stay home can be lonely. To combat isolation, come together via technology–even something as simple as turning on your webcam during virtual classes can help you and others feel more connected.

4. Help others cope. Your classmates and family members are anxious, too. You don’t have to fix their problems, but you can let them know they’re not alone.

5. Find ways to manage disappointment. Whether it’s a school trip, an internship, or a graduation ceremony, important events may not happen this year. Grieve those losses, and then reframe how you think about these life events. Think about how you can honor what you’ve achieved and find new ways to celebrate. Consider recreating important events once it’s safe.

6. Limit your media consumption. Of course, it’s good to stay informed, especially about what’s happening in your area. But too much news — especially social media — can add to your anxiety. To avoid being overwhelmed, set limits on your media consumption and smartphone use. Cut through misinformation by relying on reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

7. Focus on things you can control. Your classmates, friends or family members may be disobeying the rules about physical distancing or doing other things that add to your stress. While modeling good behavior and staying safe yourself, recognize that you can’t control what other people do. You can only control your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Another thing you can’t control? The uncertainty about what comes next. Instead of worrying about our ambiguous future, focus on solving immediate problems, and hopefully student stress will decrease.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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