Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and colleges all over the U.S. and all over the world transitioned into online classes. The health and safety of everyone is the utmost priority during the pandemic, and online schooling is only the best option during these times.
At first, it was comfortable and convenient. For parents, no more driving to school, no more preparing of snacks, some kids even attend school in their pajamas. However, in the long run, students, parents, even professors, and teachers have realized the challenges of online classes, especially on one’s mental health.
In this article, we explain how online learning environments can impact the mental health of students and parents. Also, students and parents can learn tips on how to cope with the challenges of online learning.
How Do Online Classes Impact the Mental Health?
Online classes affect the mental health of students, parents, and even teachers. For individuals who have existing mental health problems, it may worsen. Imagine how is it like for a kid to spend hours every day in front of Zoom without social interaction and playtime with their friends. Parents are now acting like teachers and are more involved in their children’s schoolwork. Teachers and professors have increased workloads and are pressured to deliver quality learning without face-to-face classes.
Virtual Learning Can Cause Fatigue
There is this newly coined term during the COVID era, called “Zoom Fatigue”. The term Zoom Fatigue refers to feelings of exhaustion after long Zoom classes or video conference calls. It may not be a formal diagnosis, but Zoom fatigue does exist especially in virtual learning. During an online class, there’s information overload plus facing the screen for prolonged periods is mentally draining.
It’s more challenging for students to learn new information, and even though they just sit in front of the computer, they feel like they are physically tired. Virtual learning fatigue is real, and it may lead to anxiety and stress for both students and professors.
Lack of Interaction and Social Isolation
Schools do not only teach new learning from books, it is where friendship starts and fun memories are created. Communication and social skills are best learned with social interactions. Kids, teens, even teachers need to connect with their friends and socialize.
But since the COVID pandemic, there’s a lack of interaction and students face social isolation. This greatly impacts a student’s mental health. The lack of social interaction in online learning leads to feelings of loneliness, lack of motivation, and isolation.
Even adults feel the empty void when they don’t get to see their friends, right? Young adults need social interaction in their formative years. Kids needs play dates with the kids their age to learn how to socialize. Professors need interaction with their colleagues too. No one wants to feel alone and isolated. This is one of the main reasons why online learning can affect mental health.
Increased Anxiety and Stress
In the traditional classroom setup, students follow a routine schedule during school days. When it’s time to wake up, time to go to school, time for class, time to do homework, lunchtime to interact with friends and attend extra-curricular activities. It’s never the same with online learning.
Staying focused on online classes is a challenge. Separating home life and class time, not following a routine schedule, the distractions at home, caused students not to able to concentrate well with their classes. As a result, students tend to procrastinate and set things aside, then deadlines are missed. This causes pressure, stress, and anxiety to both students and their parents.
The Parent’s Mental Health Get Affected Too
Online learning does not only affect the students but parents as well. Parents have now become proxy educators, tutors and are getting more involved with schoolwork to ensure their kids learn well and maintain good grades. How can a parent tutor Physics if it’s something they’re not good at?
How about work from home moms and dads that are getting overwhelmed with their own job but at the same time have to assist their kids with their online class? It’s exhausting, and it’s causing high levels of stress.
Even the Teachers and Faculty Get Stressed Out Too
Have you seen viral photos on social media of tenured professors having a hard time teaching their students online? They have years of experience inside the classroom, but teaching using technology devices has not been their best asset. There’s also the pressure and worry of teachers losing their jobs because there are some schools that are closing. There’s also the additional workload to ensure they deliver quality education to their students. These are all causing anxiety and it’s been challenging in the mental health of teachers too.
Online Learning Pros
Although online learning may impact the mental health of students and their parents, it also has its pros, particularly in family bonding and relationships. Staying at home encourages more time for bonding at home. Parents who were unable to spend much time with their kids before due to busy work schedules can spend more time with their kids. This is helpful especially when you’re trying to understand your teenager.
Some students who experience bullying at school may find online learning a positive experience. They feel safe at home and can be more productive. They can escape from the fear of being bullied at school. Although parents should know that bullying comes in many forms, cyberbullying also exists.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
There are many ways to take care of your mental health due to the stress of online classes. In this section, this is advice for parents, students, and teachers too. Here are some strategies you can follow:
- Have A Designated Work/Study Space: Pick a spot at home with lesser distractions so you can concentrate on work or school. This way you can be more focused and productive. Choose a quiet area, place separations, and impose a rule at home not to disturb during work or school hours. This way you can set a boundary and be less stressed by distractions.
- Encourage Healthy Habits: A way of taking care of mental health is to encourage healthy habits. This means eating well, following a regular sleep schedule, getting enough physical activity, and taking care of your physical health. By following healthy habits regularly, you will notice an improved mood, increased energy levels, and overall better mental well-being.
- Follow a regular schedule: Routine work for some may be boring, but following a regular schedule brings order and organization in one’s life. It enables you to achieve the tasks planned for the day, and avoid cramming at the last minute. There will be days you will lose track of time and tend to procrastinate on the tasks that need to get done. Follow a regular schedule: sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Stick to work and school time, designate break times, follow study time schedules. As you put the organization in your daily schedule you’ll feel more productive and less stressed.
- Encourage physical activities: There’s not much physical activity for students since learning from home started. Unlike before, kids can run around the playground, climb four flights of stairs to their classroom, or bike from school to home. Encourage physical activities for kids, perhaps an outdoor activity with the family, like biking, a walk in the park, or any physical activity in the backyard. Any physical activity releases feel-happy chemicals in the body that can help improve a person’s mental health. Plus, spending time outdoors also avoids emotional and mental exhaustion.
Advice For Parents
- Set a Positive Tone At Home: For parents, avoid stress and anxiety by setting a positive tone at home. This means avoid outbursts of anger, talk in a soft tone, and not putting too much pressure on yourself and your kids.
- Take Breaks: Taking breaks from the hustle and bustle every day is a must. If you’re feeling tired of your child’s schoolwork, take a power nap, meditate, go outside for a while and breathe deep. Take a short walk and clear your mind. Do not force yourself to meet deadlines if it means lashing out to your loved ones. If it’s not a school day, set the books aside and take time to enjoy the weekend, have movie nights with your kids, picnic in the backyard, or spend quality time outdoors. You and your kids deserve to enjoy happy moments because of all the hard work that you do.
- Learn Self-Care: Prioritize self-care more than anything else. As parents, you dedicate your life to make your kids happy and healthy. But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Do things you enjoy, learn a new hobby, catch up with your friends, pamper yourself. You must also be healthy mentally so you can be there for your kids.
Finding Help for Your Mental Health
This COVID-19 pandemic indeed imposed a great challenge for all of us. Face-to-face classes may not be returning soon for some states, and all we have to do is to adjust to their challenges. Along with the ways to take care of your mental health mentioned above, also consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
Thankfully, you don’t need to leave your home to talk to a therapist. The Telehealthcare Service of Kentucky Counseling Center is just a few clicks away. Talk to a therapist now and learn how to take good care of your mental health during these trying times. Stay safe and healthy!