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SAD and Virtual Learning

This fall semester may be even more difficult for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Even without virtual learning, once Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) starts to kick in, people tend to struggle to get out of bed in the morning, motivate themselves to attend work, school, and fighting their brain fog while trying to accomplish tasks.

The added pressure of knowing that if you really wanted to, you could wait until the last second to roll out of bed and turn on your class, could make it harder to get yourself going in the mornings.

For those who are starting to struggle with getting out of bed there are a few things students can do to help their mind get ready to start the day. If you wake up naturally 10 minutes before your alarm, don’t go back to sleep. It may be temping, but by staying awake, it’s a less dreadful way to start the day. Regardless of whether waking up is natural or via an alarm, once awake, prop up to a sitting position. From here, even if with being exhausted it will be easier to wake up. You can use your phone or read a book or whatever other morning activity you do first thing before your feet even hit the ground, just do it from a sitting position. Allowing a few minutes to do the activity, making sure a time limit is set for how long to do the fun activity without it getting in the way of a morning routine, and adhere to it, whether its 5 minutes or 20.

Another trick when getting out of bed is a struggle is to treat yourself to something nice as a reward for starting the day. Lately I drive to "Quick Check" and make myself an iced coffee. It’s something I look forward to, but I also need to make myself presentable to leave the house so it has multiple purposes. I also tell myself I can go get coffee if I make sure I attend my class. It may sound silly, but it works.

If the pressure of the situation is a deterrent, look for ways to relieve some of the pressure and expectations we tend to put on ourselves. If you are on time and participate in your classes 90% of the time, but one morning is a struggle to get on the computer, don’t have the inner monologue of skipping class that day - concrete’s like that can be damning. There’s a chance that in 10-20 minutes after class has started that you may change your mind, and that’s a positive. A late is better than an absence. Also, conserving energy for the paper due tomorrow instead of participating in class is ok, as long as you are holding yourself to these standards and not using them as an excuse to do nothing.

Another aspect of how virtual learning is being affected is that SAD makes it difficult to complete assignments. There are several tricks to combat this. One that I use regularly, is if you feel the smallest amount of motivation, use it. Don’t let it go to waste on playing video games or updating social media. Even if there is only 5 minutes of a good work mindset in you, be productive and run with it. Not only is that 5 minutes less of the project to do, but it also may lead to feeling able to continue to get the work done. If there is a deadline coming up, but no spark of motivation, help take the pressure off by doing a sloppy rough draft of your assignment. Try to take the pressure off by using self talk to convince yourself this draft doesn’t have to be anywhere near polished, it just needs to be an outline of the concept so that it can be broken it down into smaller chunks to conquer.

This may seem difficult to implement, but these tricks will help over time. They are not a miracle that will make life easier the first day you decide to do them, but rather they will make future days easier as they become second nature to you.

Our brains are wonderful organs that learn from the routines we set for ourselves. If you practice these methods, eventually they will become second nature to you, like pulling out your phone when you’re unsure of the time. Building up healthy habits makes the harder times much easier to conquer.

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