Martine Baars

Case A: “I have more difficulty than usual grasping the material. I end up feeling confused and frustrated.”

 “There’s a certain hierarchy in what we find important. It determines our actions and our drive. For example, you might have noticed that if you are hungry, you cannot study unless you eat something. Things like food and health, for instance, are on a higher priority level in this hierarchy. These matters are more physiological and more important to your system than reading a chapter for an online course.

“A lot of people worry about their health now. It is natural that in this stressful situation, we automatically prioritise our well-being over studying or working. You might be thinking ‘I want to know whether my friends and family are alright, whether I can do my groceries, or when I can travel again.’ Worries that are related to the corona crisis, health, family or friends, are more pressing. They take energy and effort and eventually affect our behaviour. As a result, this probably explains why you might struggle with a feeling of tiredness or even a feeling of being lost. I guess we need some energy to focus on the situation that we have at hand.”

Case B: “I feel stuck, demotivated. I feel unable to sit down and do stuff.”

“The trick is to sit down and think, what are my expectations  right now. If you have a lot of worries – write them down. Then ask yourself, what can I still achieve? Is it in reach to write an essay? Read a chapter? Or join an online lecture? If your or your family member’s health is affected, you might want to lower your expectations. Because if your expectations are too high, you might not be able to satisfy them. If you’re going say: ‘this is just a normal day, I will do what I normally do. Attend all the online lectures and do it all’ then you are probably going end up very sad for not being able to achieve all that.

“Once you define what is doable – you can set a clear, specific, and achievable goal for yourself. Keep monitoring how you are doing throughout the day and reflect on this. Any new obstacles? In that case, you might want to redefine your expectations.  Do this while studying, and if you succeed, reward yourself!”

Case C: “I cannot get used to the change in environment. My room is so different to the library.”

“We are in a totally new situation now. We are at home, trying to do the work that we normally did at the library, lecture room, or together with others. Now you are working in a space that was meant for leisure time. A lot of people forget to take breaks. You used to sit down on your couch to watch Netflix, now you sit down on it to read a chapter. You don’t need a reward for watching Netflix, but you need to reward yourself for reading a chapter.

“Rewards can be whatever you like. Make a great cup of coffee, eat something sweet, go out on your balcony to get some fresh air or even go for a walk. Don’t forget to move, but also think about bringing in plants for more oxygen. It is proven that a green environment boosts your performance and ability to study. However, it may also be that you need to adjust your environment, quite literally. If you have the opportunity, create the space that will set the mood for studying. For example, you can give your desk a more office-like character. It is hard to tell whether this will work for you,  but we can give it a try.”


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