Advice For Aggies Coping With The Pandemic
Quickly shifting from learning in a classroom to learning online brings many challenges, but overcoming those challenges while managing pandemic-related anxieties can be life-altering.
We asked Mary Ann Covey, licensed psychologist and director of Texas A&M Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), and Annmarie MacNamara, licensed psychologist and professor of clinical psychology, for tips to share with Aggies to help navigate this new territory. Here’s what they told us:
Establish A Routine
The lack of structure inherent in taking online courses is always demanding, but especially now, as the COVID-19 crisis has caused major upheaval in most everyone’s daily routines.
“Treat each day like a regular school day, even though you are probably not leaving the house,” MacNamara said. “Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Get dressed and start working at the same time each day, in a quiet, distraction-free place where you can focus. Setting goals for the day and week can also help.”
Achieving In Spite Of Anxiety
Anxiety surrounding the pandemic itself is totally understandable, but it can negatively affect online course performance.
“You can manage your anxiety by seeking social support,” MacNamara said. “Stay in touch with friends (remotely). Limit time spent reading information about the coronavirus. Create goals and stick to them – make sure you are still making progress in spite of what is going on around you. If you feel like your anxiety is increasing to the point where you can no longer focus, seek help from a counselor or other medical professional.”
It’s OK To Not Be OK
Despite good intentions, students may struggle somewhat with this new situation, and MacNamara said that’s ok.
“Give yourself some time to adjust to the new format and routine, and try not to expect quite as much from yourself for the first little while,” she said. “Many professors are making allowances in terms of grades and required work. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, take advantage of the flexibilities in grading that are being offered, and reach out if you need help.”
MacNamara said to try a “buddy system” where you have one other student in a class who you check in with remotely each week to help keep focus and accountability.
Stay Home, But Stay Connected
Covey said students should incorporate regular interaction with friends and family who are not with them.
Create fun ways to connect that are not just a quick message but a phone call or a Zoom meeting with several family members,” she said. “The key is to have a sense of community.”
A healthy diet and exercise are also important in managing the stress and anxiety that students may be feeling right now. Both MacNamara and Covey said to make time for exercise and relaxation, while following social distancing guidelines. Examples include joining a virtual exercise class, taking a walk or meditation.