Tips for surviving the stress of online classes

Shelby Adkins, Reporter

Spring II online classes began this week, and that can bring rising stress levels for students.

For some, this clean slate of a new class will soon become disheveled with overwhelming course loads, procrastinated papers and sickness due to stress.

Linda Waxse, a student counselor at Park University helps students with a variety of mental health issues, including stress. Waxse is also an online instructor at Park and is able to see first-hand the challenges online students face.

Online classes at Park University are offered in accelerated eight-week installments through the Canvas learning platform. Each class is different, but students frequently have lectures to read, the opportunity for discussion with their peers, as well as normal class work such as projects, papers, quizzes and exams.

This self-teach method can cause a lot of stress for students who need extra help with the material or are not strong at time management and organization.

 “A lot of what they have stress over is procrastinating,” Waxse said. “I think that is the number one thing that interferes with their success and creates stress, major stress.”

Procrastination is a problem for many students, but online students find it especially challenging. Online courses offer a pace-yourself method, which can trip up some students. They are responsible for pacing their work and content in order to hit deadlines which differs from face-to-face courses.

“I think you see people do that in the face-to-face classes, however, teachers will work with them sometimes and teachers will let them kind of make-up work,” Waxse said. “That’s not usually the option in online classes. They’ve got to get it done.”

Students who struggle with procrastination often times never rectify the issue, even if they know they are continually seeing a problem with completing their work on time.

“Some people will think, well that’s just what I always do,” Waxse said. “Well, you don’t have to do it because it is a huge source of stress. And you end up not being as academically achieving as you could.”

Students who procrastinate are not living up to their full academic ability, and therefore are creating more stress for themselves than they realize.

“People will get it done and if they happen to get it done then that reinforces ‘well, I don’t have to do it differently next time because I passed’,” Waxse said. “But the wear and tear on your body such as stomach problems, back problems, migraines. It’s just not worth it.”

When students reach that mental breakdown level of stress, there is really nothing they can do to come down from it. What they can do, is make sure they don’t put themselves in the same situation again.

“Stop for a minute and write out a plan for ‘I’m not going to get myself in this situation again,’’’ Waxse said. “The key is to keep your stress level manageable by maintenance all the time, because if you do that, your stress levels high and they you have a crisis like that.”

Waxse says there are many ways students can deal with their stress levels and to fight off a catastrophic-like event.

“Reward yourself when you have completed the assignment, like with a cup of tea or take a walk. It’s self-care,” she said.  “Just take a little break and just relax. Find things that can really work for you.”

Chelsi Dunkin, a sophomore online student studying organizational communications at Park University, uses these maintenance methods of relaxation on a day-to-day basis, as they have proven to be quite helpful in managing her stress levels.

“I am enrolled in eight-week classes so making my deadlines is sometimes a challenge,” Dunkin said. “I like to destress from my online classes by giving myself a few hours to do things I enjoy, such as taking my dog on walks.”

Waxse said that by managing your stress levels all the time through stress relieving activities, like what she suggested, students will be able to qualify as “flourishing.”

Flourishing, in this sense, is an academic term. It was defined in the book Positive Psychology as, “individuals with high levels of emotional, physical and social well-being. Thrive, prosper; to be in a state of activity or production; to reach a height of development or influence.”

“People who procrastinate cannot meet the criteria for flourishing,” Waxse said. “You can’t meet that criteria because you create too much stress for yourself. ”

Online students feel as though they are under an immense burden of stress due to procrastination and can’t figure out how to dig themselves out.

In order to lessen the amount of stress online students have, they should make sure to take care of their physical health, maintenance their stress levels daily, and to remember one thing.

“You don’t have to do it just because you have always done it,” Waxse said.