Coping with online classes: self-care during a pandemic

A second-year student talks study and self-care tips after a summer of remote work.

Transitioning to online learning can be tough. Whether you were finishing high school last year or were already in university, the end of your year was probably rocky. But now that you have an idea of what to expect with online classes, here are some tips on how to make the best of it.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as classes went online, I went straight to YouTube to find any videos I could on what online school is like and what to do. The most common challenge the videos brought up was time management and giving the day structure

I find the best way to feel more in control of my time is to use an agenda. My personal preference is to use a combination of paper agendas and digital calendars. 

There is no one to remind you when your deadlines are, especially when you aren’t meeting up with the people in your classes. It’s on you to make sure you have plenty of time to submit your assignments, collaborate with your peers and ask your professor questions. 

I find writing down my tasks in a notebook is helpful for daily work because I can break down each task into smaller ones (a great technique for keeping up the motivation because you can check off more stuff and it looks less intimidating). I find that having my to-do list off my computer and phone is also better for me because I don’t have to look at a screen any more than I have to. 

Although I love having my calendar in a notebook, I’m not guaranteed to check it every day, so having a digital calendar that sends me reminders is perfect. Even if you forget to check your agenda, you’re still going to be reminded about your assignments. 

I like to use my iCal because it updates my phone and my laptop and I can just have it up on a separate desktop screen. But if you don’t have a mac or don’t like the way iCal is set up, Google Calendars is a great option that works on any device. You can share calendars with your friends and colour code your events. 

Wall calendars or whiteboards are also great for visualizing what your month is going to look like. They’re also great because they’re in your face so you can’t miss it. 

A trap you may fall into is feeling like you have all the time in the world to finish your work. The best tip I can give is to finish what you can earlier rather than later. You never know when your WiFi might cut-out the night your assignment needs to be submitted. 

The next tip I have is to give yourself a schedule. No one is telling you what to do and when to do it, so decide early on what you want your days to look like. Be intentional with your rest time and your work time. Give yourself meaningful breaks, preferably off of technology. You’re going to be staring at a screen a lot this year so anytime you can give your eyes a break is a good idea. 

Mason Carter is the Student Life Vice-President of the King’s Student Union. Their biggest tip is to schedule mealtimes. 

“Carve out time to eat your food and don’t let that time budge,” said Carter. A full stomach has a big influence on your focus. “I do that by making sure that the times that I eat lunch and I eat supper, I don’t have meetings; I don’t do work; I sit, I eat my food, and I enjoy my time. That is essential because if your body is not fueled, your mind can’t work and your mind needs to work to do anything even close to productive studying.”

Check-in with yourself throughout the day and be kind to yourself. You know your limits, and if you don’t, be mindful in the next couple weeks when you can’t focus and when your body is telling you it needs something. You’ll learn what you need to get your work done and stay healthy.

Photo credits: Faith Saar. Calendar, organizer, and pens.

Exercise is another part of your day that changes when you work from home. Your regular commute to class isn’t there anymore. So when your class is done, take time to stand up, walk, stretch, and don’t look at a screen for 5 minutes

I can feel in my body when I am carrying stress or restless energy with me and it makes it very hard to focus. 

There was one particular day this summer when I had a few projects to finish during the day, so I didn’t get up for my regular walk in the morning. When 1:00 p.m. rolled around, I hit a wall. I couldn’t focus, I was jittery and felt almost sick. Instead of trying to push through and do work I wasn’t proud of, I closed my laptop and took ten minutes to workout in my living room. After I showered, and drank some water, I felt infinitely better.  

I know that working out isn’t for everyone, and it can feel intimidating, but it is so important to move your body. There are a lot of resources out there to make working out something you don’t even have to think about. My  favourite is the Nike Training app. You can sign up for plans that give you a workout to do every day, every other day or whatever frequency you need. There are many no-equipment options and there’s even a specific collection of workouts for small spaces that’s perfect if the only space you have is your bedroom. 

You can also go for walks, runs or bike rides. These are great ways to get outside as well. 

I want to highlight one more thing: social connection. It is so important to stay connected to your community. Talking to people can get you out of your head, help you see your work in a different light, and motivate you to do what needs to get done. If you live with people you enjoy talking to, take advantage of that. If that isn’t the case, there are people outside your home who you can connect with.

Carter said, “The most important thing for new students to know about  King’s is that we are very much a community. And that everyone here does genuinely want to help you.” 

So if you need someone to talk to, there are people who want you to reach out. One of the easiest ways to connect with others is to log onto the live sessions of your classes. Even if they are optional, try to connect with your peers and your professors as much as you can. 

Quick Tips:

  • Talk with the people you live with about when you need quiet time and a good WiFi connection (that means no streaming Netflix or other videos)
  • Have a study buddy, even over FaceTime, to keep you accountable to stay focused and finish your work. 
  • If you feel yourself slowing down, move to a new spot. Work in the kitchen or living room instead of your bedroom. 
  • Eliminate distractions by keeping your space clean, setting your phone to do not disturb, or even powering it off when you need to work. 
  • Don’t work on your bed. It’s important to separate your work place from your rest place. 
  • Close tabs on your computer that might tempt you to procrastinate. 
  • If you are feeling unmotivated, force yourself to work for two minutes. Usually, if you start you can just keep going.
  • Be gentle with yourself and know when you need breaks. 

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