Written by the Newmarket—Aurora Youth Council’s Health and Mental Health Working Group

We recognize that the past few months may have been hard for many people, so we wanted to curate a list of tips for online work and school that may help you reduce stress, feel happier, and optimize your daily online routine.

First of all, the increased amount of screen time many people have had to deal with lately can definitely cause people to feel more tired.

Here are a few screen time tips we have for you:

  1. Print out a few important documents that you need to constantly refer back to.
    For example, printing out your weekly school schedule encourages you to periodically look at somewhere other than your screen. We like to print out documents or do work on paper whenever it’s convenient.
  2. Try listening to audiobooks or podcasts during breaks!
    We’ve personally found that listening to audiobooks during breaks allows us to rest our eyes as well as do something that distracts us from work. There are also many free options available on platforms such as Spotify and YouTube. Here’s a playlist of some classic books created by Spotify.
  3. When possible, for quick group work that can be done without video, suggest audio or phone calls to minimize the amount of time you need to look at a screen.
  4. Optimize your computer screen settings to reduce eye strain (dim brightness, use blue-light filters if it helps, increase text size). This made a big difference for us!

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    Next, we have a few tips for keeping your mental health and happiness in check:

    1. Make sure to consistently check in with friends and family!
    Take some time each day to talk to your loved ones without distractions. It’s important to look out for one another in uncertain times.

    2. In addition to scheduling time with friends and family, plan time to relax and do the things that you love!
    If you use a method like Pomodoro for work, take the breaks in between to do a fun, offline activity. Remember that school and work are not everything; take time to give yourself the attention and care you need.

    3. Take breaks from listening to the news; it can be stressful and cause unwanted anxiety.
    Try to start your mornings positively! Talk to your loved ones and avoid using your phones right when you wake up. A way to reduce stress might be to filter your news app to the topics you want to hear about or browse a site like https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/ so that you can feel uplifted by positivity.

    4. If you need help, help is available.
    Here is a link to a hub of mental health supports:
    https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support

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    The pandemic has heightened anxiety and can make simple tasks overwhelming. If you tend to be generally anxious or have trouble coping, try these strategies:

    1. Acknowledge five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Make sure to take breaks from work often to avoid burnout.

    2. Breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds, and allow for your stomach to expand. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly release for 7 seconds.

    3. Practice mindfulness and slowly reel yourself back to reality, and try to ask yourself questions to keep your mind from drifting.

    4. Picture your happy place and try to remember and point out every detail of your happy place.

    5. Use muscle relaxation; consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body. Tensing the specific parts of your body then consciously releasing the tension.

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    Another aspect of life during the pandemic that is increasing stress and anxiousness is school. We get it, school is not easy, and the parts of school that make it more bearable, like seeing your friends have been removed. If you’re having trouble coping with school, check out these
    tips!

    1. Look ahead – make sure you know what assignments, tests, homework is coming and when. This can help so you do not feel as overwhelmed when things start being assigned.

    2. Use sticky notes to set yourself tasks – write on sticky notes what school-related things you must accomplish, and stick the notes on a wall, fridge etc. When you’re done the task, enjoy the satisfaction of crushing up the note and throwing it out!

    3. Have study socials – arrange zoom calls, facetimes etc with your friends, and do work on those, where you guys can speak and also help each other.

    4. Tell your parents about your accomplishments – this is arguably the most important tip. With no teachers and peers around, your parents are really the closest people you have while you’re doing school. Parents love to hear about this stuff, and they will be very proud of you for your work and dedication.

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    Keep in mind that it takes self-discipline to be the person you want to be!

    1. Set realistic goals. Don’t try to complete everything at once.
    2. Don’t apply too much pressure on yourself. Just start! Don’t think about it. Don’t wait to be in the perfect mood for it.
    3. Something is better than nothing. 5 minutes of work is better than 0.
    4. Keep a positive mindset and always aim to finish what you started.
    5. Follow a new workout routine! Or step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
    6. Utilize the tools you have around you, set a bedtime reminder on your phone and have a consistent sleep schedule.
    7. After completing a task, don’t forget to give yourself some well-deserved relaxation too!
    8. Most importantly, drink lots of water and stay hydrated!

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    Wanna know some good ways to take care of yourself through these tough times? Here are 5 strategies that you can practice on a day-to-day basis:

    1. Go on walks
    Going on walks improves your self esteem and perception whilst also decreasing levels of anxiety and stress.

    2. Open your shades!
    People exposed to natural light in the mornings tend to get better sleep at night. It also boosts your mood throughout the day!

    3.Write a thank you note
    Writing thank you notes will not only make you feel fulfilled, but it’s been proven to scientifically benefit your mental well-being!

    4. Write down your problems
    Writing down what’s bothering you will help you understand your feelings more clearly. Some even argue that it’ll help you gain control over your emotions!

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    Finally, we have a few extra tips for having fun and connecting with others in an online
    environment.

    1.Try to seek out online volunteer opportunities to regain connection with your community and replace usual in-person volunteering. A great place to start looking is Neighbourhood Network; check out the link here: https://neighbourhoodnetwork.org/volunteer/

    2. If you just started at a new school in the online year, reach out to other people! Chances are that everyone else is also looking to make friends. Make sure to form connections with your classmates and get involved with school activities that interest you.

    We hope that you found some of these tips helpful! Good luck in your endeavors for 2021 and stay safe!