Wednesday 30 June 2021

Adjusting expectations: How I have learned to manage work, mental health, and remote learning during COVID-19

Ginger shares her experience about managing work, mental health and her studies. 

- Ginger Abbot

Attending university always requires an openness to change. During my undergraduate years, it took some time to get used to living in a dorm room and making new friends. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I was well into graduate classes and had a familiar routine. I did not know how to adjust to changes that left my life turned upside down and isolated at home.

While I navigated the new world of virtual courses, I was also working full-time and stressing about potentially losing my job or getting sick. Many others continue to feel the same way. Here are some tips I learned while managing work, mental health, and online classes.

  1. Prioritise your free time

Prioritising your free time is crucial if you are studying while working full-time. You may become tempted to push through virtual assignments when you are not working. I fell into this habit because there were no social activities to break up my time.

However, by not taking a break, you are likely to experience symptoms of burnout. Experiment with self-care hobbies like reading or journaling to figure out how to take care of your mental health while learning online and working during the pandemic.

  1. Schedule more virtual chats

Virtual classes left me feeling more isolated and overwhelmed than ever before. There was no shoulder to cry on or date nights with friends to vent about the stresses of grad school. At first, I retreated into my isolation, but it only made things harder. I quickly learned that managing online learning and work is easier with more virtual chats.

Ask your family and friends to schedule weekly calls. When I knew I would see my parents or my best friend every Tuesday and Thursday night, it gave my mental health a crucial anchor during turbulent times.

  1. Give yourself grace

Taking a step back and readjusting expectations is a great way to learn how to adjust to change. Whether it was my grades or how long I could keep up perfect performance at work, I held myself to pre-pandemic standards. It turns out that it is much easier to excel when you don’t fear for your health and your job security.

Getting more sleep was a big part of resting and restoring my spirit. I set a 20-minute alarm every day to master the power nap and get the rest my body needs to handle intense stress. It is a simple practice anyone can use, but you should also give yourself the grace to explore other self-care avenues and ease your anxiety.

  1. Find new motivations

Getting to hang with friends or go on a holiday were my biggest motivators. Without them, I felt lost. I did not feel that crucial sense of purpose until I decided to find new motivations while managing online learning and work.

My new motivations became resting during power naps and finishing each day with the pride that comes from taking care of myself. Even little steps like eating a healthy meal became something that I celebrated. It renewed my self-confidence and strengthened the new motivations that have carried me through this last year.

  1. Check-in with yourself

My final piece of advice for students who work full-time is to check in with yourself every day. If your routines add stress or make life more complicated, make the adjustments you need to find a balance.

Change is the only expected part of life now. Anyone who wants to learn how to care for your mental health while learning online should expect care routines to change too. When I ask myself if something is still working, I am open to changing even the most minor details if they do not support my well-being.

  1. Learn to manage work, school, and life during covid-19

Adjusting your expectations while managing work, mental health challenges, and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a hard battle. Even on my best days, I do not expect anything to remain permanent.

I began to feel more confident and comfortable with my new routines after giving myself more grace and tried new things to find balance in an ever-changing world. After returning to face-to-face learning, I will continue to benefit from these adjustments that helped me through the difficult time. I hope you can find some of these helpful too!

Visit Student Space for further support with your mental health or emotional wellbeing

Ginger Abbot is a student life and education writer who is currently enrolled in graduate school part-time. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the online learning magazine Classrooms.

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