How to De-Stress from Online School

Online school is hard - we all know that. I never thought I’d miss sitting next to people I don’t know for an hour every other day more than I do now. Seriously though, mental health struggles are more prevalent now than ever, just as is the need to connect with others, and even more importantly, yourself. The thing that bothers me when I’m trying to figure out how to relax after stressful and frustrating days of work is the way a lot of people talk about de-stressing on a surface level.  While there’s nothing wrong with simple methods of relaxation,  it’s never enough for me; I just keep thinking about everything that’s bothering me and I rarely get relief. I’ve come up with three different approaches to de-stressing from online school, but these can also apply to many life situations.

  1. 1. Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is a broad term, and I love it for that exact reason. Mindfulness can occur anywhere and is not exclusive to certain practices or people.

    Meditation

    Meditation can sound really intimidating, but I promise it’s not. I can even bet you’ve done it before without even realizing. Meditation is time that you dedicate to yourself to give your mind some space. This can be listening to a guided meditation, sitting in silence with your thoughts, or even something as simple as folding the laundry and letting your mind wander. Meditation practices are whatever you want them to be; there is no specifc formula for a “good” meditation. Play around and find what you need. Whatever practice you find effective can help you process difficult thoughts and/or emotions, come to new realizations, or just simply give your brain a break. It may be challenging, but the result is worth it.

    As a little bonus for the meditation section, breathing exercises are also a great way to meditate. Breathing exercises are great because they give you something specific and controllable to concentrate on. People often struggle with meditation because of how broad the concept is, so breathwork is great for those who need the specificity. The breathing practice that I really love is called the Wim Hof method. It’s a downloadable, free app and there’s a guided practice that teaches you how to do the technique. There are countless breathing methods that are both effective and enjoyable. You can also find simple practices on Youtube, the Calm app, Headspace, and a number of other platforms.

    Journaling

    Journaling is such an underappreciated practice. There are a lot of misconceptions connected to journaling: that it needs to be daily, that it needs to be a heartfelt recap of the day, that it needs to have intense emotions in every entry, etc. Journaling is like every other mindfulness activity - completely unique to each individual. Emotional outlet can happen through poetry, a prompt, a letter, a sentence, a list, a typical journal entry, or anything that helps release stress. Journaling isn’t always pretty; it’s often messy, which is why it’s such a great release - it’s a safe place that you don’t have to be okay in. The best advice that I could give you if you want to start journaling is to not put any expectations on yourself. Anything that you write is the right kind of entry. 

    Grounding

    This is the activity that I find easiest to do when I am really wired, stressed, and disconnected. Go outside without any distractions and ground yourself. Touch the earth, smell the air, look at all of the colors, and listen to nature. Connecting to the Earth is incredibly calming and reassuring, not to mention the simplest mindfulness activity that there is. If you feel like you can’t bring yourself to start a form of meditation, journaling, or any other kind of mindfulness activity, grounding is a gateway into being able to continue de-stressing.

  2. 2. Organization

    Organization is the key to successful online schooling. It feels like there’s always something else that needs to be done, right? Online school is relentless! There are a few things that have been helping me get through: my planner, consistent scheduling, and “office hours”.

    Get something you can form a schedule in

     For me, a planner has been my go-to for scheduling since I started college. Although planners are a common type of scheduling tool, there are a lot of different kinds that can work just as well. If planners don’t work for you, you can try bullet journaling, getting a white board, using your reminder app, using a scheduling app, having a desk calendar, or any other form that looks appealing. Of coure, the most important part of the scheduling tool is sticking to it. Dedicate one day a week to looking at everything you need to do for classes, work, extracurriculars, and any other obligations and planning out your week. This is a game-changer if you haven’t done it yet. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new if your brain doesn’t mesh well with your current form of schedule-keeping. Forcing yourself to use one method and still being stressed is counter-productive - listen to and comply with what your body is telling you.

    Daily Goals 

    Daily goals are so helpful for getting work done. Like I said above, one of the hardest parts of online school is always feeling like there’s something more to do. It’s so stressful to be laying in bed after hours and hours of work and thinking about the next thing you have to do or if there’s something you missed. Well, we’re done with that now. Daily goals should coincide with your scheduling in terms of obligations, but should also include some things that you have fun doing. The key to healthy and successful daily goals is balance. Incorporating things that you actually enjoy into your daily schedule will help you have the motivation and energy to do your work well. I like to complete one class’s work per day, but also make it a part of my daily goals to call my friends, sit in the botanical garden to read and write, or do mindfulness activities. Make sure that you’re achieving balance in your daily life, because without it online school can easily cause burnout.

    Office Hours

    Speaking of burnout, “office hours” is the most helpful tool I’ve acquired so far. Last year, when asked if he had completed an assignment, a mutual friend of mine said that he hadn’t and wouldn’t that day because his office hours were up. He then explained that he would work on schoolwork from nine in the morning until six at night, and outside of that timeframe he doesn’t work on anything and uses the rest of his day to have fun. I’ve since adopted this policy, especially when I’m embarking on total burnout - office hours could be the way to prevent this in a lot of people. Create your own hours and stick to them. When the day is done, go do something fun!

  3. 3. Self-Care

    I think this term can be overused and oversimplified, but when I think of self-care I think of mindfulness combined with necessity. This is beyond simply doing a face mask or taking a hot bath (although those are great ways to practice self-care) - listening to your body and getting enough social time are what I consider the greatest forms of self-care.

    Listen to Your Body 

    Listening to your body isn’t just about one aspect, it’s about being completely intuitive. Your body knows exactly what it needs - listen to it! This can range from intuitive eating (eating what you want when you want it, but also listening to your body when you’re full or when you don’t want something), moving your body, sleeping enough, or anything else that benefits your body. This also includes listening to your mind; when you know you need a break from work, take it without judgement. The converse works as well - when you know you need to do something that will help you in the long run, do it without judgement, even if you’ve spent time doing something other than what you needed to do. Fulfill your needs with complete acceptance.

    Fill Your Social Needs

    Whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, you need social interaction. This is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. Make sure you’re talking to people that make you feel positively. Something that is really important that we’re not told very often is to listen to your body and how you feel after you get done talking to someone. Do they actually make you feel happy, or do you have to try really hard in every interaction with them? Pay attention to who you talk to that makes you feel socially fulfilled, not wanting less or more. This rule is important for people who make you feel negatively, but keep in mind that even negative feelings are a spectrum. A good rule is if you’re left thinking about ways to change yourself to fit the needs of another person, they’re probably not someone who deserves your time, attention, or energy. Social isolation will make online school feel that much more stressful, so make sure to reach out and talk to the people you love.