Feeling Overwhelmed? Anxious? Overthinking everything?
Here are a few strategies to help build quality into your study time and to be more effective in your space.
- Use the STOP skill.
When you notice you are getting caught in a cycle of overthinking, the first thing to do is to get out of the “spin cycle” and into the present moment. You will not be productive when stuck on the hamster wheel of “what if’s” and “should haves”.
S- Stop what you are doing.
T- Take a step back. Turn away from your device.
O- Observe. Look up and around. Release your shoulders.
P- Proceed mindfully in the present moment. Take a deep breath. Relaxing into the exhale.
Find one small thing you can do that will help you in this moment.
- Use the HALT-O skill.
Check in with yourself. Hand on heart, take 3 deep breaths and turn your foucus to your body. If you listen, your body can tell you what it needs.
H- Hungry? Try to fuel your body nutritiously when you can.
A- Angry? Anger often shows up when we are feeling other things too. Pause and explore/address this.
L- Lonely? Checking in with your friends and family is important.
T- Tired? Getting enough rest is key for your mental clarity.
O- Overwhelmed? Sometimes identifying this feeling can help to give it a place, create some distance and help to find a starting point,
Managing the above symptoms first will help setup your day.
- Get comfortable and creative during lectures.
Our home space can feel small and distracting when we are living and studying in the same area. If you notice you are not engaged during lectures, consider mixing up how you are learning.
Try one of the following:
- Find another table or desk to study from. (kitchen table, dining room table, patio table, etc.)
- Use a makeshift standing desk. Try a bookshelf or high counter to elevate your computer.
- Cast your lecture to the tv.
- If possible, workout or go for a walk while listening to your lecture.
Sitting at a desk isn’t conducive to everyone’s learning style all of the time, and sometimes we process more information by changing up the norm.
- Set reasonable expectations.
If you are hitting a roadblock, change your goals. Expecting yourself to study hard for 6 hours straight isn’t realistic nor effective for most people.
- Try setting a timer for more productive and shorter chunks of time. 20 minutes of actual studying is better than an hour of distracted social media time with your lecture slides in the background.
- Take breaks. Get up, move, eat, drink water.
- For some, a ratio of 1:1 can work. Each minute of studying equals a minute of break. Find what works for you.
Remember: motivation fuels motivation, so set the bar at something attainable and watch your willingness to work increase.
- Set a study plan.
- Make a master list of everything you need to do. Include dates, colour code it, whatever helps to gain that sense of control. Then set it aside. This is not the list to refer too frequently if you are feeling overwhelmed.
- From the master list, decide on 3-5 things you need to accomplish every day. If you achieve more than that in a day – great! If not, you will have at least accomplished the “must do’s”.
- Breaking down the work into bite-size steps will help to unfreeze the overwhelming moments, and to help you move forward.
- Try a schedule.
The freedom of working from home can be too much. Set a start time for yourself, and set an alarm for an hour before that to get yourself fed, dressed and set up. Good hygiene and proper nutrition can work wonders.
This is new for everyone. You are doing school work during a pandemic utilizing new skills and technology while learning new information. Be gentle with yourself. Keep a balanced perspective. No one is getting this right completely – and that is ok. If you need help, ask.Learn More
We’re currently three months into the new school year and it is evident that this has been yet another different year for parents, caregivers, educators and of course, children. The COVID pandemic is still going strong and there are many new protocols within schools that have been put in place to attempt to keep children and families safe. Although they are there to ensure safety, these changes and protocols can be scary and overwhelming for all involved. Let’s talk about some of these stressors and what parents, caregivers and educators can do to help.
Families had to make an often difficult choice between virtual learning and in person learning. Both have many pros and cons and can bring up anxiety for children and teens. These worries might be larger and more intense than past years because of the complexities of the current global pandemic.
Here are some common worries for children and teens returning to school that we have been seeing in our therapy sessions:
- The thought of sitting in a classroom can feel overwhelming after not being around many others for the past school year
- Having to wear masks all day
- The fear of COVID and/or getting sick
- Worrying that they don’t know enough because of the gaps in learning that happened during the lockdown
- Feeling worried about reconnecting to friends that they haven’t spoken to in a while due to being out of school and out of touch with others
- Communication can be overwhelming in general as we have been isolated during the past school year
- For those folks doing virtual learning, there’s worries about turning on their camera and gaining the confidence to participate virtually
- Worries about how to feel connection with teachers and fellow students in the virtual learning space
What can parents and caregivers do to help?
It’s really important, perhaps now more than ever, that parents and caregivers are listening to their children and teens and validating their emotions/worries. Here is a quote that may put things into perspective:
“Validating involves putting yourself in your loved one’s shoes and conveying understanding of their experience as they are experiencing it. This involves imagining what the situation must be like for them. It is important to accept, allow, and validate emotions that are different from what you expected or that are hard for you to understand.” Steps of Emotion Coaching – Emotion-Focused Family Therapy (emotionfocusedfamilytherapy.org)
To create connections and an open environment for sharing both the positive and the negative, Parents and caregivers can ask questions to their children and teens like:
- How is school going?
- What’s going well?
- What’s been hard for you?
You may also ask questions about what your child is worried about. It’s useful to explore worries in a curious way. Ask lots of questions and really try to understand what’s going on from your child or teens perspective. Here are some examples:
If you child or teen is having difficulty being around other people or connecting to others sometimes the best thing can be to help them gain exposure to being around others in a gentle way:
- Take them out for a hot chocolate and help them practice ordering
- Include them in grocery shopping and checking out with the cashier
- Set up a time to go for a walk outside with another family or friend
Providing education about COVID and mask wearing can sometimes be enough for an anxious mind that is worried about getting sick.
- Talk about what happens in your child or teen’s body when anxiety shows up- name and label those thoughts, emotions and body sensations
- Teach your child or teen about ways to breath to slow down their body (box breathing, paced breathing), or ways to ground when in class (drop anchor, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 game)- lots of short videos are available on Youtube of these strategies and then practice them together
Equally important is for parents and caregivers to recognize and validate their own worries and stressors about this school year, as the effects from this pandemic impact everyone. Do your own wellness check:
- Check in with your own stress level and notice if you’re feeling able to coach and support your child through their own worries.
- Reach out to your own support systems and have open discussions about the things you’re struggling with and that your child or teen is struggling with. Likely other people in your social circle are experiencing similar things. Giving and receiving support is invaluable. It helps us feel less alone and gives us a place to share our feelings.
Our clinicians are skilled and are happy to help if anything you have read here sounds familiar to you. Remember that we have ALL been struggling over the past 18 months. Asking for help is the first step in making positive changes and recovering from the stress of this difficult time.
By Paige Sparrow MSW,RSWLearn More