Education is one of the many things significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With schools closed down to prevent the spread of the virus, teachers and students currently depend on distance learning.
However, distance learning may also result in students feeling more stressed and anxious(1). Studies showed that stress may affect memory and attention(2).
Stress management techniques are beneficial in reducing stress and boosting one’s immunity, especially during the pandemic.
Teachers play an essential role in helping and supporting students to navigate these uncertain times. Here are some of the ways you can maintain connections and reduce stress during distance learning.
Set Up Regular Routines
During these uncertain times, consistency can help your students feel calm and safe. Just as parents are encouraged to establish regular routines at home, teachers can also do the same.
You can create fun activities that address both the academic and emotional needs of your students. These activities can be mapped onto the children’s daily schedules.
For example, having a recorded morning greeting video or a quick Zoom call at a set time can give structure to your students’ day. Another helpful way is to have one-on-one sessions with each student so that you can check on them.
You can allot time for the following activities to help reduce your students’ stress during distance learning:
- Play online games with your students
- Organize virtual role-plays (where you can incorporate some lessons)
- Give them enough time to work on projects
- Encourage mindfulness practices, such as journaling, meditation, and deep breathing exercises
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
Aside from having a negative impact on our mental health, stress also weakens our defenses and compromises our immune response(3). Thus, prioritizing one’s health is essential in reducing stress.
As an educator, you should also encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle to your students. Teach them the value of staying physically healthy to maintain a balanced mind.
Below are some ways you can support children’s healthy lifestyle during distance learning:
- Ask your students how they are feeling physically throughout the day.
- Incorporate movements or health education into your daily lessons.
- Add short bursts of activity to regularly planned break times or active brain breaks that recharge the body and brain.
- Make sure that your students are fueling their bodies with healthy food by checking in with their parents.
[Related: 6 Ways Parents Shape A Child’s Mental Health]
It is also important for students to protect themselves and their family from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Encourage your students to follow the preventive measures and safety protocols to prevent the risk of contracting the disease:
- Wash hands using soap and water or a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth when going out.
- Maintain physical distancing (at least six feet away from those who do not live with you). Also, avoid crowded areas.
- Avoid indoor spaces that are not well-ventilated.
- Stay home as much as possible.
Maintain Connections With Each Other
During distance learning, your students may feel lonely, isolated, and anxious. As their teacher, you should make them feel cared for, safe, and connected.
There are different ways to stay connected and maintain relationships with your students. For instance, you can create virtual advisory groups and schedule individual online meetings.
As much as possible, make an effort to have one-on-one conversations with each student. These focused interactions can provide emotional boosts and build stronger relationships.
A supportive adult can help a vulnerable student overcome a difficult home situation and protect them from resultant anxiety(4).
Another creative way of connecting with your students is by recording a video of yourself. You can pose a challenging question, explain a concept, greet your students, tell them you miss them or send reassuring messages.
Besides checking on your students, you can also reinforce connections with their parents by regularly communicating with their guardians through SMS messaging, phone calls, or video conferencing.
You can use the time with parents or caregivers to discuss their child’s school performance. Such discussions create an opportunity for both parents and educators to be more attentive to their students’ learning needs, especially if they are struggling.
You can ask questions to gain insights into how parents and students are coping with the daily routines at home, online classes, homework, and organization.
As an educator, you should encourage parents and children to stay connected at home. Suggest activities that families can do together, such as working on household projects, cooking, or playing board games.
Acknowledge Students’ Emotions
Another way to build stronger connections during distance learning is through acknowledging your students’ emotions. Teachers can guide students in recognizing their feelings and healthily cope with these emotions.
Foster resilience in students by modeling healthy stress and anxiety management strategies, celebrating small victories, and encouraging teamwork.
Be open and prepared to respond to students’ worries, fears, or anxieties. Staying calm is a helpful way to assure them that everything is going to be okay.
You can validate your students’ feelings by telling them that it is alright and completely normal to feel anxious, especially in a time of crisis and change.
A student with a history of anxiety and trauma tends to think negatively. When you hear them make a negative comment, positively respond to them. Reframing negative mindset patterns is beneficial to one’s mental health.
If a student expresses serious panic, anxiety, or aggressive behaviors, it may be best to notify a guardian or the school’s guidance counselor.
Empower Your Students
Your students may feel helpless during this challenging period. To ease their stress and anxiety, remind your students of what they can control.
For instance, tell them that they can protect themselves and other people from the spread of the virus. Remind them to follow health guidelines, such as washing hands, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and staying healthy.
Research also suggested that helping others can help us feel better and empowered in times of crisis(5). Although teachers and students are physically separated, they can still come together to help others who are in need.
You can check out different volunteering opportunities online, like reading to younger children through video calls or making birthday cards for foster children celebrating in isolation.
A 2018 study found that being kind to others or to oneself both increased happiness(6).
- Ajmal, M., & Ahmad, S. (2019). Exploration of Anxiety Factors among Students of Distance Learning: A Case Study of Allama Iqbal Open University. Bulletin of Education and Research, 41(2), 67-78. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1229454.pdf
- Vedhara, K., Hyde, J., Gilchrist, I. D., Tytherleigh, M., & Plummer, S. (2000). Acute stress, memory, attention, and cortisol. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 25(6), 535-549. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10840167/
- Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601–630. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601
- Brooks, R. (2003). Self-worth, resilience, and hope: The search for islands of competence. Metairie, LA: The Center for Development and Learning.
- Bokszczanin, A. (2012). Social support provided by adolescents following a disaster and perceived social support, sense of community at school, and proactive coping. Anxiety, stress, and coping, 25(5), 575–592.
- Hopper, E. Berkeley.edu. (September 2018). What Type of Kindness Will Make You Happiest?. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_types_of_kindness_will_make_you_happiest