By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Public University
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a major disruption of the daily routine of most Americans. Many non-traditional students, including adult learners, have found that added responsibilities have been placed into their lives because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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For example, as schools reopened in different parts of the country, a lot of parents opted to enroll their children in remote learning. Many adult learners now face the challenges of balancing their own education responsibilities, their children’s schoolwork, household maintenance and a full workday.
All of these simultaneous challenges can create severe stress. An effective work-life balance is necessary to reduce stress and overcome daily obstacles resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, a study was conducted by nonprofit Active Minds during the coronavirus pandemic. It found that one in five college students reported that their mental health has significantly worsened during the pandemic.
College Students Are Staying Home and Away from Social Activities
Even though many restrictions have been lifted and businesses are reopening, there is an inherent danger being in public regarding the coronavirus. As a result, many college students are spending much more time at home and are not engaging in as many social activities as they did a year ago. Many adult students may have also experienced layoffs or furloughs during this time.
During This Time, It’s Important to Feel Connected to Other People
With the uncertainty of when the coronavirus pandemic will end and many students spending more time at home away from friends and family, it is important to remain connected to other people during this self-imposed isolation. One of the safest ways to connect with friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic involves Zoom. Zoom offers free video conferencing, which can be used with family and friends around the world.
Maintaining social interaction with others is essential in stress management during this pandemic. Utilizing technology tools that enable you to safely interact with others without the risk of spreading the coronavirus virus is a good option. Examples include Zoom meetings, FaceTime and Skype.
Set Up a Routine, Exercise and Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
In addition to maintaining social connections, it is also important to set up a routine. Create a daily routine that sets aside specific times each day for coursework, physical activity, time with household family members and downtime to relax.
Exercise by getting out of the house is very important to mental health. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is also very important; you’re more likely to maintain a positive outlook if you’re well rested.
Time Management Helps You Avoid Stress
Avoiding stress through effective time management is vital. One strategy is to develop a list of daily responsibilities and a time log that accounts for each hour during the day.
Estimating the time each task is going to take and then filling in the time log is a good way to ensure that all the daily tasks are accounted for. This may include time for coursework, time for work and time for family responsibilities.
Another strategy that I have found helpful is the prioritization of daily responsibilities. Using the same list of my daily responsibilities, I prioritize each task and label them A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, C1, C2, and so on. For example, putting out a house fire would be an A1 task!
Each day, I label my daily responsibilities. During the day, this labeling is helpful in determining whether I was on track.
For example, if by lunch I am only on B2 and the daily tasks that day go to D1, I know that I may need to work through lunch to get everything accomplished. But this type of labeling also helps me to maintain a work-life balance by ensuring that I still have time for family responsibilities and downtime.
Reward Yourself for Accomplishing Tasks and Reaching Milestones
Overall, the coronavirus pandemic is a stressful time for many college students and their families. But remaining organized is essential and helps you avoid procrastination and stress.
Developing milestone goals is also helpful. And when milestone goals are reached in managing your responsibilities, reward yourself to remain motivated.
Intrinsic rewards may include treating yourself and family to a dinner out, taking a vacation, or downtime at home away from schoolwork. Each of these rewards can be effective in helping you remain focused and avoiding burnout.
About the Author
Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Public University. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States and Central America on the topic of human trafficking. Most recently, he presented at the International Human Trafficking Conference in September of 2020 and became a podcaster. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019.
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