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Tools to Help Students De-Stress and Be Successful

6 tips community colleges can give their students to help them cope with stress related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an effort to assist community colleges in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Aperture Content Marketing is developing new content on stress management. Marketing communications should reassure students, point to college resources, and provide answers. Making this type of specific information accessible during these uncertain times will help your students both transition to online learning, and meet the increased challenge of program completion.

Whether your students are stressed by being primarily confined to the house, switching to distance learning, dealing with 24/7 childcare challenges, financial concerns related to lack of employment, or the justified concerns surrounding Covid-19, there are proven techniques to improve mental health.

Aperture is drawing on the work of neuroscientists, biologists and psychologists to post new marketing content in our library to address student concerns so they can stay on track. Here is an example of upcoming content will be a lively list of tips for students, nontraditional and traditional alike.

1. Move.

Start your day with stretching, yoga, or dancing. Energize your body and mind for the tasks ahead. Walking for even 15 minutes before you sit down at your home computer will transform your mood and get your blood circulating.

Our bodies are built to move and thank us in myriad ways! Want the science? Exercise will lower your blood sugar and insulin levels, release endorphins to improve your mood, strengthen your heart and improve your circulation. Further, weight-bearing movement fortifies your bones, boosts the immune system and makes you happier.

Right now, many fitness studios are offering free, online classes for all types of exercise. You can connect with Zoom and sign up for a group class during your afternoon break.  

2. Go outside.

If you can take your morning walk in a park or other green space, it can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention.” This type of attention, with allows for reflection, reduces stress hormones.

Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut, spent nearly a year on one of the most solitary jobs possible—the International Space Station. His “tips on isolation” article, featured in the New York Times on March 21, is well worth reading. He relates how he craved the smells and sounds of birds, trees and even mosquitoes!

Scientists have documented that being around trees and nature reduced blood pressure and anxiety. In one study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious, to more calm and balancedOther studies by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka show that time in nature or even outdoor scenic photographs are associated with a positive mood, and psychological well-being, meaningfulness, and vitality.

3. Schedule.

As astronaut Scott Kelly relates,

“On the space station, my time was scheduled tightly, from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep. Sometimes this involved a spacewalk that could last up to eight hours; other times, it involved a five-minute task, like checking on the experimental flowers I was growing in space. You will find maintaining a plan will help you and your family adjust to a different work-and-life home environment. When I returned to Earth, I missed the structure it provided and found it hard to live without.”

The science bears him out—having no routine or structure is much more draining mentally, physically, and emotionally than any routine could ever be. While you are studying and attending classes from home, make sure to schedule your time and your daily to-do list. Many people find dressing as if they were “at school” helpful to delineate their “school” time from “off” time.

4. Be in the moment.

Schedule breaks from your routine. You might consider the Pomodoro method of time management. Relaxation exercises such as long, slow breathing, journaling, listening to music (without multitasking) and practicing a rhythmic activity such as running, drumming or even chewing gum are very beneficial. Clinical and sports psychologist Leah Lagos, PsyD recommends several breathing techniques which allow us to stop and refocus.

5. Embrace.

Even if it’s only virtually, connect with the rest of humanity. Facetime, Facebook, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and the good old telephone – connect and reconnect. Try something new.

Without a commute, you may have new time on your hands and can take up new hobbies or finally research family history and locate new relatives. When was the last time you sent a favorite relative a real, snail-mail letter? For those who are temporarily furloughed, there are also many local online volunteer opportunities such as checking on neighborhood elderly or reading to children via the Internet. Explore your local online resources such as libraries, museums or community centers for other ways to connect. 

6. Laugh.

The age-old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” has a lot of truth. Science indicates it may be the most important de-stressor of all! When you laugh, your body releases endorphins making you more positive, happy and confident. Laughter inhibits the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, dramatically relieving stress and anxiety. Laughter also prompts your body to release more disease-fighting antibodies.

“Once you start laughing, it forces you to feel better,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, D.O. and Director of Women’s Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City. She explains laughing decreases arterial inflammation and increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol. 

So, whatever tickles your funny bone is good! Cat videos, SNL, YouTube—it’s all just what the doctor ordered. Here’s some ideas to inspire you: The 25 Best Comedies of the 21st Century, Ranked by IndieWire; 32 of the Funniest Books Ever Written, by Esquire; The 57 Best Netflix Stand-Up Comedy Specials right now, compiled by Rotten Tomatoes; and a short blurb on the “five best Jewish jokes ever” by Lawrence Rifkin.

Aperture staff picks:

  • Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • Airplane!
  • Austin Powers
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Naked Gun

Providing accurate information about courses, enrollment, and online support is also a practical way community colleges can reduce stress for learners.

For community colleges looking for ways to reduce stress for their students during this difficult time, there’s one more tip we’d recommend: make sure your learners have all the information they need at their fingertips.

As learners look for ways to readjust in this struggling economy, they will doubtless turn to community colleges for help and support. They will need accurate, informative advice on courses and career programs, financial aid, and child support. As you offer advice on self-care, be sure you don’t lose sight of the more practical information your learners also need to thrive in difficult times.

At Aperture, we’re working hard to develop more materials to help learners destress and navigate their education in the midst of this pandemic. We also develop materials for community colleges to help them communicate more effectively with their students. To learn more about how we can help you with these communications, contact us today.

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