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5 Back to School Tips: Managing COVID-19 Anxiety

The new school year is approaching, but this year is different with COVID-19 still in full force. We provide back to school tips to help make this year better.

It’s August, which is notoriously known as the “back to school” month. Under ordinary circumstances, back to school tips would revolve around starting school or returning back would be an exciting but scary time, but the pandemic adds a whole extra thick layer of uncertainty and doubt to incoming students of all kinds. Colleges and grade schools everywhere have been tasked with deciding whether the school will return to in-person or continue with remote learning. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

There’s no right call here, and someone –parents or the student –will suffer from either choice. Parents are scrambling to figure out how they will juggle work and childcare should schools continue with virtual learning; students and families are worried about potential exposure to the virus should they resume in-person classes; and college students are concerned about how the pandemic will affect their graduation timeline with a huge reduction in class sizes. The anxiety that is felt by everyone this month is an incongruent buzz, desperately trying to sync up. It seems that everyone has different worries and struggles and is trying to get their academic needs met as best as possible. 

As a student myself, I’m in this boat with many others, awaiting any piece of information to plan my semester around. This past Spring, I worked with dozens of adolescents who expressed frustration with the academic material. They struggled to understand the content given the lack of in-person instruction. It also put a strain on families as parents encouraged their children to focus on schoolwork each day. Still, children struggled to separate home-life from academics, which diminished their ability to feel motivated and concentrate. As we enter into another semester of uncertainty and dread, I’d like to provide some helpful back to school tips to stay grounded this month while we all transition again into our roles as students. 

Back to School Tips

back to school tips graphic summarizing 5 tips listed below.

1. Practice Self-Care

Sometimes when the word self-care comes out of my mouth I roll my eyes at myself, because the term “self-care” is almost a cliche at this point. However, as much of a cliche as it sounds, it’s still a pertinent skill that can easily be overlooked. 

Solution: Take the time now to figure out how you can unwind and take time to do what you enjoy. Is it going for a walk in the park (while practicing social distancing, of course)? Is it curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book? Is it binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy for the 12th time? Now is a good time to ask yourself “what helps me unwind.” This website is an excellent resource to get you started on the journey of self-care. 

2. Organization

Working from home this past month has really tested my organizational skills, and I thought I already had them down pact –I was wrong. Whether you are starting school in person or online, organization is essential!

Solution: Take the time on Sunday evenings to make a list of all that you want/need to accomplish that week. Mark important deadlines into your calendar, so they don’t creep up on you. And don’t be afraid to plan and schedule beyond academic deadlines. For those of you who are exceptionally busy, I recommend scheduling yourself time for self-care each day. Yes, really. I’m one of those people who will get so wrapped up on completing tasks and starting new projects that I won’t take the necessary time to engage in self-care. Scheduling 30 minutes time slots each day during the week has saved my mind from burn out.

3. Mental Health

Take care of your mental health. Many college students struggle with anxiety and sleep issues. College culture glorifies pulling all-nighters and putting pressure on yourself to make excellent grades, all while having a well rounded social life and being involved in campus extracurriculars. There is a direct negative correlation between anxiety and GPA. Basically, if you’re stressing, you won’t perform at an optimal level. And, if you’re stressed to the max while studying about performing well on the test, chances are you’re not retaining the information. 

Solution: Have a cuddle sesh with your weighted blanket to subside that anxiety. Research shows that weighted blankets can reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety in as little as 5 minutes. 

4. Build Concentration

One of the biggest complaints I have heard during this pandemic is that people struggle with concentrating on their academic work. With libraries and coffee shops remaining closed or restricted, people are bound to their homes and stuck staring at their screens hoping the focus will just kick in. It can be a frustrating cycle of needing to meet deadlines, while also dreading the initiation of a task. 

Solution: Set small goals for yourself. There are a couple of different variations of what this tip could look like. You can set a timer for 25 minutes (or any amount of time that works for you) and focus on the task for that entire time. After the timer is up, immediately reward yourself with a break which can entail a snack, drink, or phone time. Using this method over time will train your brain to increase its focusing abilities.

Another variation of this technique is setting small task goals. Say you need to write a paper, goal one could be writing a general outline, goal two could be fleshing out one paragraph, and so on and so forth. Try both and see which one works best for you. In addition, there is evidence to support weighted blankets as a tool for improving attention, so grab your weighted blanket and focus in on your work! But remember, and I cannot stress this enough, it’s okay to feel unfocused during a PANDEMIC! I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform optimally at all times, and that’s unrealistic. 

5. Take Care of your Physical Health

Mental health is not the only detriment to grades, sickness is too, and I’m not only talking about COVID-19. 

Solution: Take walks, drink that extra glass of water, and get your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Now –more than ever–is the time to take care of your body and make it a priority!

Take care of yourself this semester. What are your favorite back to school tips? Let us know on our social media pages!

Veronica THWB
Veronica

Veronica is a mental health professional who is pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has earned her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and now provides therapy to children and youth in the community agency setting. She has been a part of several studies withiфn the field of psychology, including cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and health psychology. Her current research interests revolve around utilizing mindfulness meditation techniques and how they can impact the health of individuals in various socio-economic settings. She also has research interests revolving around developing and implementing interventions to aid in recovery from substance abuse within the primary care setting.

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