You may be thinking that stress sometimes helps you get things done. While it is true that stress can sometimes focus our minds and stop us from procrastinating, stress can also impact the brain’s ability to store and retrieve information. You may feel more stressed out in a fully online class, given that online learning often feels unstructured. We cannot always make stress ‘go away’, but we can use it to guide our actions. Take a moment to listen to your body and understand what may be causing you to be stressed right now. Here are some common causes of stress, and suggestions for how to seek help, when taking online courses.
Working with limited time or being on a deadline is one of the most common causes of stress in life. Create a daily routine or schedule set amounts of time you can focus on working or studying, and find ways of keeping yourself accountable to that schedule. Use a Tomato Timer if that helps you. Set-up synchronous Zoom sessions with friends or classmates (and keep your camera on!). If you are doing as much work as you can and still running short on time, ask your instructor for an extension, and be prepared to offer extra-credit work. Remember that instructors are also on a deadline when it comes to grading assignments, and they may have to reject your request.
Feeling underprepared for that big assignment or exam
It is completely normal to feel underprepared for high-stakes assignments. These types of assignments ask students to challenge themselves which can be stressful. Does your professor offer office hours? Take advantage of that. Form ‘learning pods’ with other students and study or practice together. If the assignment comes with a rubric, pay attention to that. If your professor is willing to look at early drafts, submit rough drafts in time for receiving and implementing any feedback.
Unsure if the work you’ve done so far is ok, or unsure that you’re going in the right direction
It is very common to get a little lost about how you’re doing in an online course. You’re not alone. This is a very appropriate question to ask your instructor during office hours. Even if they have not graded anything yet, they will still be able to tell you how you’re doing so far. Double check the syllabus or any course timelines to make sure that you haven’t missed any deadlines. Instructors often make announcements about deadlines or changes to the syllabus at the beginning or end of synchronous sessions or on Blackboard’s announcements section. Make sure that you are paying attention during or in those moments or spaces.
Anxiety about your work getting ‘lost’ in the online environment
It’s always a good idea to keep track of your submitted work. Read the syllabus carefully to make sure that you know where to submit which assignment. Always make sure that you have the correct email address whenever you send in your assignments via email to your professor (triple check is necessary). If you’re living in another time zone than the college and/or the professor, make sure that you calculate the correct time of submission (clarify with your professor if the submission deadline doesn’t include a time zone).
Other things in life are getting in the way of learning
Online learning requires a lot of focus and a distraction-free environment. What can you do to create such a space and time for yourself? Classrooms are often safe spaces, where noise, climate, and other possible distractions are relatively controlled. How can you replicate these conditions wherever you are learning from? If you are learning from home, talk with the people you live with about how they can help.
The above advice and resources regarding stress and mental health can only go so far, as we are not clinical psychologists or experts on mental health. If you need more help, contact the Baruch College Counseling Center. In addition, CUNY students who are struggling with any kind of psychological or emotional problems can text “CUNY” to 741741 to initiate a free and confidential conversation with a trained volunteer and receive a referral for further help if necessary.
This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Feel free to remix!