How to Stay Focused, Positive, and Optimistic During Virtual School

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If you’re anything like me, staying focused and on track during virtual school has been quite the challenge. To be fully honest, I am continuously overwhelmed and feel that I am not as efficient in completing my school work. As a result, I have been getting down on myself, saying that I am not doing enough and that online school just doesn’t work for me. I’m sure a lot of you are feeling this way as well, and I would like to acknowledge that I feel you; it is okay to be in that headspace. Change is difficult and virtual school is quite the challenge. My best advice is to be patient, forgiving of yourself, and take the time you need to adjust to this new way of learning and living. Shifting your mindset in this respect helps a lot more than you think.

With all the time I have sitting at my desk, I have been thinking a lot about what we can do to help ourselves in adapting to online school and giving ourselves compassion. So here it goes… 7 tips for staying focused, positive, and optimistic during online learning.

Contextualize Your Scenario: Think about the time we are living in. If you get caught up in being stressed with school or anything else in your life, let me remind you that we are living in a global pandemic! It is fully understandable if you are feeling stressed, uncomfortable, or scared. This time is so unprecedented, scary, and a rollercoaster of emotions. When we think for a second that we are nearing the end of this madness or at least a plateau, we get hit with another turn that leaves us unacclimated and confused. Everyone’s world is turned upside down. I know it seems cliche, but we are all in this together. Give yourself some leniency and room to make mistakes.

Refocus Your Perspective: As humans, we instinctively get caught up in the negative aspects of our lives and ourselves. We see the glass half empty when seeing the glass half full is what’s beneficial for our mental health. Especially during online school, contemplating how this year could have been, and thinking about how in-person school is better is so easy to do. However, I believe that making an effort to highlight what is going well at the moment will make a major difference for every one of us. For instance: sure, it would be nice to interact with our friends and teachers face to face, but for our safety, online school is the best option right now. Safety is a positive thing, and that is what online school is promoting! We are lucky to be safe and healthy, even though that means being at home. Now you do it; reframe something in your life that you could easily be down about, but now you get to be grateful for something else.

Turn Your Camera On: Okay, okay. I knew this was going to be a controversial one. Seeing yourself on camera all the time can be difficult and a really weird feeling. I understand; sometimes I don’t feel like turning my camera on and that is okay. Everyone has days where they just don’t want to be seen by anyone except their bed! Before you firmly decide to keep your camera off, think back to all of your favorite parts of in-person school; group projects, talking with friends before and after class, interacting with your teachers, and so on. It feels as though online school has taken away all of the “fun” parts of school from us, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The small action of turning on your camera will change a lot for you, your classmates, and your teachers. I can promise you that. Seeing a bunch of friendly, confused, sad, silly, or stressed faces will be a thousand times better than seeing rows upon rows of black screens. You will get to form stronger relationships with your teachers and fellow students by being able to interact with them. If it seems impossibly scary to turn your camera on right away, take small steps. Maybe start with one class, then try two, and so on, until you feel more comfortable with it. If you dislike it after testing it out, that’s okay too. Just give it a try, and I think you’ll pleasantly surprise yourself.

Put that Planner to Use: The fact that I use a planner is one of the main reasons I am even partially sane during this time! I write down every inch of my life in it — from homework to after school activities to appointments to due dates. I use it not only to keep track of everything going on but to also keep myself accountable. Meaning, if something is written in my planner, it has to get done. Taking this “rule” very seriously is something I still need to work on, but I know that doing so will only help me and increase my overall efficiency. It also doesn’t hurt that physically crossing out something on your to-do list is the best feeling ever. If you are someone who prefers to keep track of their schedule digitally, there are free apps that serve the same purpose as a paper planner. Two of these include Any.do and ZenDay which are downloadable on IOS and Android devices.

Goodbye Phone! Put that darn phone away! This is something I still need to work on significantly. I never realized how addicted I am to my phone until I didn’t have someone telling me to put it away. When it’s just sitting on my desk, I have the urge to pick it up, even when I am interested in what’s going on in my zoom class. Using my phone during class is such a bad habit, and I can see the effect it has had on my retainment of information. If you’re also having this problem, I challenge you to put your phone away for a whole day and see how you feel at the end of it. I put my phone in a different room for a whole day of classes and came out feeling much more confident about the material I learned than when I have my phone in front of me. This realization reinforced the idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” When we have our phones in front of us, we are drawn to pick them up out of habitual behavior. If you make a concerted effort to physically separate yourself from your phone, you will be more conscious of your total usage and be able to focus more in class.

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Use the Tools your Teachers Provide You: With the inability to talk to your teachers in person, you may feel like it is difficult to get in touch with them. However, you are given many tools that can help you communicate with your teachers. Whether your teacher uses GroupMe, Schoology, email, or Remind101, all of these are fantastic tools that you can use to ask questions or get clarification on assignments. Additionally, your teachers hold office hours for a reason. Don’t hesitate to join office hours after school or reach out to your teacher to meet with them one-on-one. Teachers are always here to help you because they want you to succeed more than anything.

Give Yourself Breaks: Your brain is working extremely hard during online school and deserves to be given breaks often. Compared to in-person school when there is usually time to socialize and walk around in between classes, you are focusing on a screen for hours at home which can be a lot more draining than it seems. Allowing yourself to relax in between classes and after school is crucial in keeping your mind active and refreshed. During your “brain breaks,” you could go on a quick walk, take a nap, have a snack, shoot hoops, paint your nails, and more. Taking time for yourself is extremely important but often overlooked. Make sure you are listening to your body and doing what is best to reach your fullest potential.

Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you are doing your personal best. Online school is not easy, but you can conquer it. Hopefully, these tips will contribute to your success this year!