Staff Editorial: How to not burn out in online classes

HN Hoffmann
Online classes have proven to add both benefits and setbacks to the semester. For some courses there is more flexibility, for others there are more assignments. But for everyone, there is some form of virtual learning, and with that comes the dreaded “Zoom fatigue.” The members of the Student Life Editorial Board share their methods to avoid burnout with online education.

Use breaks in between class
Take breaks! After every class, I do something that I enjoy. Be it grabbing coffee, crafting or chasing my puppy (who refuses to sit down during any length of time), I make sure that in between classes I give myself the opportunity to take a mental break. On campus, this is harder with in-between-class times often being used to grab food or simply make it to the next class. But online, I can actually utilize the break in between classes, and I make sure to take advantage of the time by doing something that brings me joy.
– Kya Vaughn, Managing Editor

Set boundaries for yourself
I’ve found in studying and working entirely remotely, it’s very easy to forget to take breaks and time away from the computer. This semester, I’m trying to treat my days as I would during an on-campus semester with “working hours.” For me, this means not starting classwork before a certain time in the morning, closing my computer and having dedicated time to prepare meals and setting a consistent bedtime routine so I don’t go from homework or meetings straight to sleep. While blocking out these times in my calendar can feel a little unnecessary, it allows me to hold myself accountable to the work I need to do without feeling like I need to be working 24/7 just because I could.
– Emma Baker, Editor-in-Chief

Take exercise breaks
Exercise is so important to reduce burnout! Since the beginning of quarantine, I have scheduled time with my friends every day to meet on Zoom for an hour to either do a dance workout or some yoga. It is also important to remember not to just exercise in the middle of the night as the last thing to “check off” your daily to-do list. Instead, do it in the morning between classes or in the afternoon in the middle of your study session. Then, exercising will provide a fantastic break from constant Zoom lectures and will serve to motivate you to complete some work beforehand so as to not feel “guilty” about not having done anything before you exercise!
– Vivienne Chang, Director of Engagement

Write down your daily or weekly goals
I am a huge proponent of lists, lists, lists! Writing down the tasks that I want to get done, whether it’s specific to the day or the week, helps me visualize the amount of work I have. My personal method is to use weekly Post-its that I put on the table where I work or on my computer—I can easily write down any new assignments that might come up, and (the best part in my opinion), I can cross them off as they get done and watch that list dwindle. If you’re the kind of person that prefers digital lists, then be my guest! Adding tasks to Google Calendar or to a new Note is also an extremely useful method.
– Christine Watridge, Multimedia Editor

Keep your work space separate from your play space
I’m the type of person who tends to work anywhere where there’s an available surface. Doing this blurs the areas of my apartment that I’ve designated for working and studying and the areas I’ve designated for relaxing and enjoying myself. If you don’t keep the two separate, you’ll start to stress yourself out, because every corner of your environment will make you think about work and there won’t be a place for you to just relax and stop thinking about the paper that’s due next week or the lab you’ll have to finish. Keeping your work space and your play space separate can help you keep the balance between your work time and your leisure time.
– Sabrina Spence, Senior Cadenza Editor

You’ve probably heard this bit of advice from countless people before me. I’m here to tell you that it really can be beneficial. I’ve found journaling is a great way to take a step back from the constant marathon of college life and reflect on the events of the day, ponder something I’m curious about, or just shout into a void where I won’t be judged for typos. As the school year starts to ramp up, I’m getting back into the habit of spending ten minutes writing before bed, but there are so many other ways it can work as well. Maybe you jot down some thoughts as you ride the Circ every morning or maybe you have a set of Post-it notes at the corner of your desk at home. At least give it a shot.
– Matthew Friedman, Associate Editor

Give your eyes a break
As someone who suffers from chronic migraines, looking at a screen all day just leads to more headaches and fatigue. While many of my typical relaxation activities include watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling through Twitter, having to spend increased time on the computer for school has challenged me to find alternative ways to spend my break periods. Whether it’s painting, cooking, learning an instrument or reading a physical book (wild, I know), non-tech activities can provide a lot of relief.
– Jaden Satenstein, Multimedia Editor

Be kind to yourself
Giving advice on this topic poses a unique challenge for me, as I’m already burnt out from online school. But seriously, just be gentle with yourself. There’s so, so much going on in the world right now, and online school requires us to reconfigure how we approach our learning environment. Just do your best, and remember that there are going to be some mistakes and hard days, but it’s okay to mess up sometimes. This is a completely new experience, and while it may take time, know that you are completely capable of doing an amazing job this semester.
– JJ Coley, Copy Chief

Reward yourself
Choose one day a week during which you don’t do any school work or can give yourself very minimal responsibility. I’ve found that it’s easier to get through the school week and stay focused on my work if I know that come Saturday I can completely relax and do something fun. Some of my favorite stress-relieving activities are visiting a state park, apple picking, or just staying in and having a movie night. Constantly worrying about your next task or deadline is not healthy, so please let go of your responsibilities for at least one day!
– Kathleen White, Director of Engagement

Honestly, I think it’s more important now than it was in pre-pandemic school. Throughout this first week, it has been easy to say, “Oh, I’m not doing anything but sitting on Zoom today, so I don’t really need to sleep.” But I’ve learned that can’t be further from the truth. Without the constant energy and movement of a normal year on campus, I have instead found the energy of a good night’s sleep. Even though it may seem like I am not doing anything during the day, I still feel wiped from a day of staring at my computer screen. The nights where I get the most sleep lead to by far my most productive days.
– Benjamin Simon, Senior Scene Editor

Create a self-care plan
Think about the activities that help you feel the most relaxed and re-energized, and work them into your regular schedule. This way, you can be as proactive as possible at protecting your emotional and mental health and make sure that it is a daily priority before you feel overly burned out. Whether you need to meditate, exercise, journal or reach out to your friends to feel centered, don’t forget to make time in your schedule for these activities. Don’t forget: Making time for yourself and taking the time to check in with your mental health is equally as important (honestly, more important) as studying for that midterm or staying up late to finish that essay. In turn, you’ll often feel better equipped to be academically productive later on!
– Jayla Butler, Managing Editor

Mentally prepare and protect yourself
I’m definitely already burnt out, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Prepare yourself for a slog. This semester will be an exercise in mental fortitude. You might not feel like you’re doing as well as you usually do, but we’re living in unprecedented times and you’re still going to class and trying. As hard as this semester will be, don’t forget to praise yourself for showing some resilience.
– Dorian DeBose, Senior Sports Editor

Switch up your surroundings
There isn’t much you can do about having three straight hours on Zoom, but that doesn’t mean all of your schoolwork has to be done in one place. Do some homework outside. Zoom from someplace else occasionally, whether that means just moving to the other side of your bedroom or reserving an on-campus study cubby. A lot of my burnout, especially in the spring semester, had to do with logging in to classes from the same desk, day in and day out. This semester, I’m moving from desk to kitchen to outside, and I’ve found that the different scenery can make a big difference.
– Isabella Neubauer, Senior Cadenza Editor

Remember that people are understanding
Don’t forget that people will be kinder than you think. This semester has been and will continue to be isolating, whether you’re on campus or studying from home. It can be easy to forget that everyone else is going through something pretty similar to what you are. People will understand if you need space, or need some extra time, or need to flake on those plans and reschedule. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ask for the things you need to stay happy, healthy and sane.
– Jamila Dawkins, Forum Editor

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