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Sheltering — and studying — in place

Rachel Rothstein
April 21, 2020

Coping with COVID-19 as an Ohio State student

In a few weeks’ time, COVID-19 altered nearly every aspect of our lives — from work and school to how we interact.

Many students live in a mixed state of anxiety, fear and, yes, boredom, as they try to maintain some normalcy in their lives. 24/7 news updates add to the unease.

Many have lost something important to them. High school seniors and college graduates don’t know if they will celebrate accomplishments with a ceremony, causing grief that can be difficult to reconcile when others are losing loved ones.

Still, most students must find ways to stay productive while studying from home. Some adjust well; others find the lack of structure to be an extra challenge. Fortunately, Ohio State offers many resources to help students be successful even while working from home.

Coaching, motivation strategies, and more: resources for students

The college’s Dennis Learning Center provides resources for students who find online classes challenging. Assistance is available for all undergraduate, graduate, professional and medical students.

Jackie von Spiegel, the center’s program manager, encourages students to schedule academic coaching sessions available through Zoom. Coaches are trained in educational psychology topics such as learning and motivation strategies to help students better meet their goals, she said.

Academic Coaching for Ohio State students

The Dennis Learning Center offers a great resource for students who need guidance on where to start with online learning and other topics for academic success.

Schedule an academic coaching session

Productivity tips for online learning

Von Spiegel recommends allotting regular times for your academic work each week, especially for courses that don’t have real-time, virtual sessions. Block specific time to watch recorded lectures so they feel more like regularly scheduled classes.

She also recommends finding a small group of class partners to go over the lectures or class sessions and study together. This helps hold you accountable.

“If you don’t know anybody in your class, go ahead and (send an) email on Carmen and see if anyone wants to meet at a certain time on Zoom to go over the coursework and have your own little mini-class,” von Spiegel said. Doing so breaks the social isolation that many are struggling with.

Often, the hardest part of getting work done is getting started. Tyler Hudson, Stress Management and Resiliency Training Lab graduate teaching assistant, advises “tricking yourself.” Tell yourself that you will work on something for 15 minutes. Once you get over that initial hump of resistance, the task is often not as bad as you expected. If after 15 minutes you are still miserable, stop and come back later. He also advises the Pomodoro Method for productivity.

Remember your why

Fredrich Nietzsche, an influential German philosopher, said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” When you feel unmotivated, think about why you enrolled at Ohio State in the first place, both von Spiegal and Hudson suggest. Remember your long-term goals and use those for motivation.

“Finding a meaning and a compelling narrative that we remind ourselves of when we feel down, isolated or a little distress is quite helpful,” Hudson said.

Combatting, and embracing, anxiety

If anxiety about COVID-19 is keeping you from being productive, Hudson reminds us that not all anxiety is bad.

“Anxiety is actually helpful in a lot of ways, and it has kept us alive. It alerts us to potential or perceived threats to our source of security. And so, acknowledging that some of that (anxiety) is good and productive has a lot of utility worth remembering. Every time we feel anxious, it doesn’t mean that something bad has happened. It’s just an alert mechanism,” he said.

For many, the news is a source of anxiety. It’s important to remember you do not need to be glued to your smartphone or TV. You can limit how much news you consume and still get all the information needed, Hudson said.

Ohio State offers plenty of resources to help with anxiety and mental health. Counseling and Consultation Services has helpful resources and offers virtual counseling sessions. The Student Wellness Center has virtual wellness coaching for students, too. If you need help quickly, the Ohio State app features a new wellness section with tips and advice for students.

Woman typing on a tablet keyboard

Creating a productive environment

What if you don’t have an adequate environment to work in?

If you do not have the technology needed, the university’s service desk can help with obtaining a device. Access for free or reduced-cost internet access is also available.

In terms of maintaining time for your academic work, if you live with family or roommates, communicate with them and set boundaries.

“Families don’t see you studying all the time, and now they are. They may not realize how much concentration it takes,” von Spiegel said. Communicating and giving them your schedule can help them better understand.

She also suggests giving them signals. For example, let them know that if you have earbuds in, that signals you are working.

Try to support your family in return, so everyone can be productive. If your parents need some quiet time, offer to take your siblings for a walk, she said.

When finding a space at home to work, try to find simple sources of inspiration: a candle you like, a picture of your family. Or open the window on a nice day. Little things can help productivity, Hudson said.

Reframe your thinking

If you are not quarantined with family or roommates, it is easy to feel alone and isolated. Rather than thinking of this time as isolation, Hudson challenges you to reframe your mindset.

“Thinking about it as solitude and not necessarily isolation is a semantic trick,” he said. Being connected is not always such a good thing, and solitude offers many proven benefits, six of which you can read about Psychology Today.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

One of the most important things you can do is to give yourself some grace. It is okay not to be your most productive self during a global pandemic.

Remember, no matter what you are going through right now, it is a difficult time. You should not minimize your feelings just because you think others have it worse. No matter what, this a unique and trying time, but it is only temporary. Eventually, the need for social distancing will end.

Finally, Hudson reminds us, “Some of the most awe-inspiring, beautiful human acts are taking place as we speak. It is during periods like this that literal heroes are made. Some of the most incredible acts of sacrifice and love and beauty are taking place in our own communities and country right now.”

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