Updated: Jul 25
As protective measures during COVID-19 persist, many students have transitioned to virtual learning. From an increased workload to adapting to new online learning tools, virtual education is adding to the stress caused by isolation, fear, and financial struggles.
By: Hadeel Alhadi
As protective measures during COVID-19 persist, many students have transitioned to virtual learning. From an increased workload to adapting to new online learning tools, virtual education is adding to the stress caused by isolation, fear, and financial struggles. While the challenges of online learning should be addressed institutionally, there are few things students can do individually to care for their mental health and wellbeing.
Physical distancing does not mean social isolation
It is hard to stay connected to your classmates when you cannot see them in class or during campus events. However, it is important to still try to actively reach out to them and stay in touch. Having a support system of friends who are going through similar experiences as you can help you feel less lonely. The university experience is not the same without sharing it with others!
For many first-year students who did not have a chance to make in-person friends yet, it may be a little more difficult. Here are a few ways you can start meeting people virtually:
Join a club! If you are a student at the University of Ottawa, Campus Vibez (CVUO) has a list of over 300 clubs that you can join. Extracurricular activities are an easy way to meet new people in university while doing something you enjoy.
Join a group chat on social media and connect with other students. There are many forums, especially on Facebook, where students gather to share their schedules, form study groups, and connect with classmates.
Attend virtual campus events like game nights, discussion groups, or networking events. If you follow your university on social media, you are bound to run into their events calendar or groups specific to your faculty.
Even if you are not in the same institution as your existing friends, there are many fun things that you can do online such as movie night via Teleparty , fun online games like Among Us, or use platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to just have a study session!
Ask for help when you need it
Now, more than ever, there are many services available for students to seek help. For University of Ottawa students, you can reach out to Student Academic Success Service which provides counseling services, mentorship, and academic accommodations. Virtual learning is a new experience for almost everybody and there is no shame in asking for extra assistance when you need it!
It is easy to get into work mode and forget to leave your desk for hours, especially now that you are not required to move between classes. It is important to remember to move your body regularly, even if for a short walk around your room. Additionally, getting some fresh air every day is essential and can help you refresh after a long study session.
Exercising can help you manage stress and boost your motivation, and even though most gyms are closed due to the pandemic, there are few ways you can exercise from the comfort of your home (or neighborhood):
Go for a run around the block
If you enjoy nature, go for a walk or a hike once in a while
Limit your screen time when possible
This is not an easy task when you feel like many aspects of your life are now happening through a screen; however, it is useful to limit your nonessential screen time such as social media and videogames. This can greatly help to rest your eyes, shoulders, and even relax your brain since it helps you distinguish between work time and rest time. This does not necessarily mean you should completely stop all of your non-academic screen usages, but rather moderate, because reasonable use of social media and games are a valid form of connecting with others!
Establish a structure
One of the challenges of online learning is committing to the asynchronous portion of it. Especially for those students who relied on having to wake up for in-person classes and sticking to a schedule, this can be tricky! It certainly does not help stress levels when you start with one unwatched lecture video and end up with 10 videos two days before your midterm. This is why establishing a self-paced schedule for all of your courses is a great way of ensuring you do not fall behind and you do not get overwhelmed by the amount of content you need to cover. Try making a to-do list every morning to make sure you are staying on top of your tasks, and stick to the regular lecture time when possible!
It is safe to say that we are all finding online learning a little (or very) challenging. At the end of the day, remember that it is alright to struggle and experience negative feelings while navigating this uncharted territory of virtual learning. It is only going to make you stronger and more resilient. Remember: you are not alone in this journey, and that it is not a weakness to reach out for help!
Winnie Lui, Mouayad Masalkhi, Rhea Verma