How to handle the return of in-person classes

How to face the return of in-person classes

Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated? We gathered expert tips to overcome these obstacles.
Published: September 27, 2021
Coming face-to-face with in-person classes 2021
After adjusting to a virtual classroom setting, students are working to reintegrate into in-person instruction.

In-person classes are back and, for the time being, here to stay. For some students, returning to the classroom is exciting. But, for others, in-person classes have become a source of anxiety. After a year of attending classes from bed, it’s no surprise that some students are having trouble adjusting to a learning environment that forces them to be more focused, engaged, and socially aware. Mia Hernandez, a sophomore at SU, and Theresa Hobbs, a licensed clinical social worker, gave The NewsHouse some advice to help combat the nerves that accompany in-person instruction.

Coming face-to-face with in-person classes 2021
Reaching out to peers and professors helps form strong connections throughout the community.

Form Connections

“Connection with peers and teachers is really important. A big part of what was lacking before was group discussion…being able to talk to each other in class is really important,” said Hernandez, who is double majoring in human development and family science and psychology.

“Being alone, it’s hard to find self-motivation,” she said. In order to stay motivated, she believes it is important for students to access their community of peers for support. “Now that we have each other, we definitely need to rely on that.”

She also emphasized the importance of forming relationships with professors. “To actually get to know your teachers and to have them know you is a really important thing in general. I also feel like being in the setting of the classroom, you’re forced to pay attention. Being actively engaged in what you’re learning about is the best way to learn. ”

Hobbs, who has been a practicing clinical social worker since 2009, echoed Hernandez’s emphasis on building connections with classmates and professors as a way to ease anxiety and reduce stress. “Get involved with campus life, if possible. Try to meet new people, try to connect with new people, have that open conversation with friends and teachers if you’re not feeling okay.”

Coming face-to-face with in-person classes 2021
Mindfulness can look different for each person. It is important to find an outlet to help balance school stressors.

Practice Mindfulness Skills

Feeling anxious about social interactions and the overall hectic energy of school is a common sentiment among students, especially at the beginning of the year. Hernandez underlines that it’s imperative to put extra effort into social interaction because it can open doors to other connections.

“I know that social anxiety is difficult in general for people, especially since we haven’t properly interacted with people in over a year,” she said. “You just have to push yourself. It’s not going to come from anyone else. It’s going to come from you. You need to have intrinsic motivation. You need to discover how you can find worth in building connections.”

Hobbs recommends practicing mindfulness skills to overcome nerves. “I think it’s important to build resilience and coping skills — being in the moment, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Those quiet exercises can help people build resiliency.”

Taking small steps to lessen anxiety can also be extremely beneficial, according to Hobbs. “It’s not about creating normalcy, but a new normal. Start with small steps — ok, I have to get up now, shower, and get ready for class,” Hobbs stated.

Hobbs observed the collective struggles and anxieties of students through the turmoil brought forth by the pandemic. She feels for students grieving milestones and missed opportunities.

“There’s so much loss here — loss of the college experience, loss of meeting new people. You missed a whole year of that. Getting back into that, it’s almost a sense of urgency to make up for that, but realize that everyone is in the same boat,” she said.

Continue the Conversation About Mental Health

Hobbs urges students to discuss mental health candidly, whether it be with a friend or therapist, in order to avoid bottling up stress.

While seeking professional help can be especially daunting, taking initiative and finding self-help resources is highly encouraged by professionals such as Hobbs.

“Find info for professional help around campus. I don’t think a lot of students come forward, especially if they’re anxious, to begin with. There’s an embarrassment. There’s stigma. We need to have that constant conversation about mental health,” Hobbs stated. All emotions are valid. Talking about how you feel should not be embarrassing — open lines of communication pave the way for much-needed support and mental clarity.

Coming face-to-face with in-person classes 2021
Cultivating an environment where it feels safe to discuss mental health will help create a better campus experience.