Virtual classes and ADHD don't always get along. Surviving the academic year implies reducing the anxiety and tension generated by these pandemic circumstances and the new study modality to which we must adapt.
2020 was a year of constant crisis management. Institutions, teachers, students, struggled to make virtual teaching work. Now, with a new academic year, we must work to incorporate all the lessons learned: such as the dangers of zoom fatigue, decreased participation, eyestrain, etc. This way we will be better prepared and thus have a less chaotic year.
During this unusual time, students must employ a combination of strategies to manage anxiety, set realistic expectations, and build routines based on each individual's needs and difficulties.
Preparations for virtual classes: Rules for putting together a daily routine
Embrace the unknown. This is the incredibly difficult first step for students who must switch to virtual classes this year. Flexibility is the key. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't build a predictable structure.
- Plan periods or blocks of activities
Divide the day into periods that work for you. They can be morning, afternoon and evening blocks, with breaks in between. Use reminders - alerts on your phone or computer - for class time, break periods, and other assignments. Ask yourself what a productive and entertaining day of learning looks like for you.
- Includes timed breaks with specific options
Schedule times for activities such as: eating a snack, doing physical activity, finishing tasks, the time you want to spend on social networks and the moments to rest from the screen. Include short and long breaks. Have a list of activities to do during those breaks written so you don't waste time choosing what to do and avoid unnecessary distractions. If you work remotely in addition to studying, be sure to find time to rest your eyes on screens between activities to avoid fatigue and red eyes.
- Don't stop socializing
Plan safe encounters with friends and colleagues to take a break from your responsibilities. Check the current safety and distancing rules previously. Having a balanced routine will help you recharge and connect with loved ones.
- Keep in touch with your teachers
Try to take advantage of all the available spaces to maintain contact with your classmates and teachers outside of the virtual class. Either by WhatsApp, Discord or institutional forums and messaging. This way you can stay informed, share resources and ask for help when you need it. Remember that you are not alone.
- Constancy for over perfection
Be open to the possibility of reviewing your plans and making adjustments if you see that they are not working. It doesn't have to be perfect, it has to be functional to your needs in the short and long term.
Virtual Class Preparation: Addressing Academic Anxiety Directly
- Your concern is valid
Name, acknowledge and empathize with your feelings about studying and virtual classes. This is key to processing anxiety and trauma. Find someone you can talk to about it.
- Have two alternatives planned
After everything you learned the previous year, you should already have an idea of how your next academic year will develop. You already know that plans can and will change at some point. You can map out two alternative schedules and routines for the months to come and regain a sense of control. Plans should follow an "if this, then that" logic.
We can safely assume that most institutions will use a hybrid or fully remote model this year. In either case, taking the initiative to create contingency plans can help you feel confident that you are prepared to change course when necessary. As you make your plans, you should keep in mind the problems you faced the previous year, and how you could solve them now.
- Set realistic goals
What are the most suitable goals for you, knowing what happened before and what the university will be like this year? Many students had trouble maintaining momentum and motivation while studying from home. Recognize that your performance before the pandemic may be very different from now, and more if you already needed support before. Consider what you want and can achieve this academic year.
Keep in mind that the challenges of studying at university, in the context of a pandemic with the concern of contracting the disease and having to manage distance learning, are more than significant. Be gentle with yourself and understand that adaptation takes time and practice.
- Set specific times to review your plans
Having set times to brainstorm and think about the problems you need to address reduces unpredictability and worry about possible changes in plans or failures in the process.
Distance Learning: Top ADHD Guides
- Go from anxiety to curiosity
In recent times, we have experienced great trauma: unemployment, social isolation, illness, loss in family, and more ..
To lower the volume of anxiety, consciously try to shift toward curiosity. Anxious and worrying thoughts turn off the ADHD brain and predict negative outcomes. Curiosity, on the other hand, opens us to new possibilities and reinforces resilience, a trait, along with flexibility, increasingly useful. Take advantage of your curiosity by making simple but powerful changes in behavior. Try changing your thinking from "I'm afraid of what's going to happen" to "I wonder what's going to happen." This exercise is more powerful than it sounds.
- Be kind to yourself
Acknowledge the impossibility of today, and show some empathy with yourself, especially in times of exhaustion and despair. This is not the time to judge. Focus on "cans" rather than "shoulds," and prioritize self-care.
- Stay aware of your executive dysfunction
Stress and fatigue affect weaker executive functioning skills first and most strongly. Be aware of the executive functioning challenges of your ADHD. Think about how they have been influenced by the pandemic and what that means in terms of expectations for the academic year. Skills such as impulse control, working memory, emotional control, and organization can present themselves differently and require specific adjustments.
- Defend your education
From poor internet connection to unreliable equipment, there are serious and worrying inequalities in access to distance learning. But not all inequalities are easy to recognize.
If the fatigue of computers is affecting you, or if you have any other problem regarding the virtual modality, talk with your teachers to think about alternative ways to assist with your course. Universities often have an attendance area that students experiencing great difficulties with online environments can approach.
The information in this article is based on the publication of the psychologist Sharone Saline in Additude Magazine