The MHS Journals

Our blog archive of insights and intel


How to Cope with the Stress of Distance Learning

Sep 28, 2020

What is Distance Learning?

Distance learning is education where the student is physically not in front of the teacher for the lesson, and it’s more common than ever, thanks to the internet. Video conferencing, computer-based learning, and hybrid learning are examples of tools available to facilitate distance learning. It offers students the opportunity to learn in more flexible and affordable ways. Here are a few of the advantages of distance learning.

  • During the pandemic, when students and teachers can’t safely be together, distance learning gives teachers a way to continue to educate students.
  • Students can work distance learning into their busy schedules more easily than entirely in-person classes.
  • Students don’t have to be in a set location at a set time with distance learning. Therefore students can log into their classes and complete assignments when they’re away from home.

While it’s not right for everyone, distance learning certainly opens up a whole new world of learning possibilities. It’s important to note, though, that distance learning can be stressful in some unique ways. Students and family members should watch for signs that distance learning is creating unhealthy stress levels.


How Do We Cope with the Stress Associated with Distance Learning?

Distance learning can be stressful for the student and the family as a whole, as the dining room table turns into a classroom, and parents take on a new role as teachers. Here are a few examples of stressors that children may experience while distance learning.

  • Children may miss the connections with school teachers, counselors, and friends. They may exhibit depression symptoms as a result.
  • Routines may disappear, leaving children wondering what is next and what to expect from each day. They may exhibit symptoms of anxiety.
  • Sports and other forms of physical education may be disrupted, leaving children unable to expend excess energy.

When people of any age experience stress, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that gives humans the instinct to fight, flight, or freeze in the face of danger. Stress is not always bad. It helps us prepare for challenges, such as tests for school children, and it helps us stay focused and attentive. However, when stress levels remain high over time, they can become toxic and interfere with the same processes they initiate under other circumstances.

The antidote for toxic stress is another hormone called oxytocin. It is released when the person experiences strong positive relationships. Oxytocin plays a part in feelings of attachment, trust, safety, and love. Those feelings can help children manage stress and worry by mitigating the impact of cortisol and encouraging resilience. Here are a few things that adults can do to help their students and children.

  • Focus on the relationship. Teachers and other school personnel can use virtual tools to connect with students, preferably one-on-one, when they are struggling. Research shows that talking individually with a student for two minutes per day for at least ten consecutive days can effectively build relationships and boost oxytocin production. Connecting with families via video chat regularly to discuss things like homework and routines can help teachers understand why a student may be struggling.
  • Start an activity that you can do together. Cook dinner, call a family member, or start collecting things found outside of your home.
  • Create a routine. The brain is calmer when it knows what to expect. Parents and teachers can work with a student to create a weekly schedule that includes time for studying, playtime, and family meetings. Family meals, physical activity, meditation, and journaling can all be helpful as well.


How Can We Practice Self-Care While Involved in Distance Learning?

While it’s critical to take care of your children and loved ones, it’s also essential to take care of yourself. Dangerous conditions, such as clinical depression, may go unnoticed by others for a long time after they emerge. Here are a few tips for self-care while helping your students succeed through distance learning.

  • Maintain social contacts. Reach out to friends and family outside your classes. Avoiding isolation is an effective way to manage stress.
  • Get some rest. While it sounds simplistic, getting enough sleep is an essential part of stress management and a powerful tool to encourage learning. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep for adults.
  • Organize your environment. Distance learning, whether the student is you or your children, requires organization and discipline. Keep your workspace tidy, and that includes your computer files. Set out a timeline and mark essential deadlines on the calendar. This kind of organization puts you back in control and lessens stress levels.
  • Get moving. When you are juggling distance learning, you may think it’s too hard to incorporate regular exercise. However, physical activity is a proven stress management tool. Just 10 minutes a day can increase endorphins and improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Avoid sugary foods and those with high-fat content, which lower your energy. High-fiber food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and pure protein are all good for learning and good for your body.
  • Manage your time. Make a daily priority list for getting everything done and then extend it to a month’s priority list. Include both distance learning and personal self-care tasks. You’ll likely find this time management skill helpful long after distance learning time is over.


Where Can We Find Help?

If you or someone you love is struggling to adjust to distance learning, it’s okay to ask for help. Professional help can make you feel better, mentally and physically. MHS has a team of compassionate professionals to help adolescents and adults adjust to the “new normal,” including distance learning challenges. Contact us today online or call (952) 835-2002 to schedule your appointment. You and your student can survive and even thrive in the face of distance learning.