Voice: How anxious students are affected by online college learning
If anyone asked about me, the majority of my peers would immediately be inclined to comment on my ability to make my voice fill an entire room when I walked in. For most of my life, I was someone who had been classified as bubbly, outgoing, and ambitious. I spent my days in high school participating in political debates, singing in an extracurricular choir, and occasionally questioning the methods of my teachers.
It was also my voice and my ambition that ultimately led me to journalism. Leave it to me to pick one of the fastest and most competitive areas of work to pursue. My favorite part about this career path is that I can take my bold, quirky personality and regurgitate it in typed words for others to read and enjoy. My second favorite part of the job is that the typewritten articles will never be able to reveal the constant squeezing of my hands, or the overwhelming rise and fall of my nightly panic attacks.
Despite my outgoing personality, I am one of the many people who struggle with generalized anxiety disorder. This disorder, as reported in the 2014 Survey of Living with Chronic Diseases in Canadaaffects approximately three million Canadians aged 18 and over. The survey also indicates that approximately 27 percent of these Canadians reported that their disorder (s) affected their lives “somewhat” or “extremely”. The results of the survey showed that of the 3,361 respondents, 60 percent obtained post-secondary education. This, of course, is based on students who did not graduate in an online environment, but rather still in the classroom.
I would rank my anxiety on the same level of exuberance as I do, only I would give it the ego of an alligator with ferocious teeth at every corner, stalking my insecurities in the form of tunnel vision and hyperventilation. Anxiety, at its worst, is like the pins and needles stinging your skin and the smell of gasoline. My panic attacks feel like choking my own heart while screaming “Is this as good as life?” “
Steve Joordens, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, discussed some of the effects of mental health disorders such as anxiety with Radio-Canada News earlier this year. He said anxiety can cause elevations in heart rate, breathing and sweating because it “essentially makes our muscles ready to fight or flee.”
“But we don’t know how to fight, and we can’t run away,” said Joordens, “So we end up with this feeling that becomes chronic, it’s engaged all the time.”
Although my anxiety knows how to cope in the most awkward times, I finally started to regain control when I started college. I met new friends, became even more passionate about my studies, and found an environment that helped keep my hands shaking and biting my nails. That was until COVID-19 spread internationally, causing a pandemic lockdown and college courses go online and stay online, even after restrictions were eased. The only option it left me was to look inside and face the waiting alligator.
Despite the confusion, fear and uncertainty that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have done their best to provide a reasonable learning environment for distance students. Although many universities did their best with what they received, online learning has opened a door of instability for many people with mental disorders, especially students with anxiety like me.
The definition of generalized anxiety disorder Statistics Canada is âa disorder characterized by widespread and persistent excessive anxiety and worry. This worry is exaggerated and unrealistic, with nothing specific to provoke it. “
This generic definition offers a perspective on the world of anxiety, in which it emphasizes that in normal times the stress and worry of anxious students is already at an all time high. Add in a global pandemic, quarantine, and an online educational approach that relies on self-reliance and virtual deadlines without the regular course structure, and you have a circle of students with overwhelming anxiety and suffering.
Celina Mullen, a journalism student at SAIT, says her mental health has declined dramatically since switching to the internet.
âI feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth with my studies and I feel like I’m missing out on all of these assignments,â she says. âSo that really contributed to my anxiety in particular, and I just feel super overwhelmed with the whole situation. I can’t see it getting any better to be honest.
Although I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, I have found it to be worse with online school. I constantly wake up at 3 a.m. with a cold sweat, desperately trying to remember the mission I forgot. Despite my inability to open my half-asleep laptop, I learned that there are so many resources available to help students get through this difficult time.
Jennifer McCormick is a counselor at Mount Royal University and a registered psychologist who says anxiety is one of the most common reasons people seek out and some of the themes she has seen in her therapy sessions include l ‘help with time and schedule management.
“[Online school] can have a whole range of different impacts on people, âshe says. âBeing able to manage their time, sometimes feeling lonely and sometimes feeling unable to get some of the answers they need from their classmates or teachers. [plays a role]. “
McCormick also says students should make a schedule to help cope with the stress of online classes.
âPlan your week. Do something fun. Connect with people who are dear to you and who care about you. And ask for help if you need it, âshe said.
The best advice I have ever received was from my therapist, who once asked me what I liked best about me. I told her it was my bubbly nature and my great voice, and how I could radiate my personality through a room. I also told him that writing was one of my favorite things in the world, because it was like making my personality permanent on paper.
“And what are you most afraid of? ” she asked. My anxiety rumbled in the pit of my stomach the second she finished her sentence, and somehow my therapist already knew the answer. âTake the thing that scares you the most,â she said. “And use it to fuel the things you love.” I guess this was my first attempt to try.