SUSU Psychologist Gave Advice on How to Work Effectively at Home

Fighting against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infection has required serious measures. Russia cancelled mass events and our universities moved to distance learning. South Ural State University is no exception. At the same time, students and teachers have to get used to new working conditions and cope with the anxiety due to the "Wuhan virus". Head of the SUSU Department of General Psychology, Psychodiagnostics, and Counselling, Candidate of Sciences (Psychology), Associate Professor Svetlana Morozova told how to overcome anxiety easily and not to lose productivity when working from home.

— Why did the spread of coronavirus cause such a panic among people?

— In today's situation, anxiety is a normal state. It protects from danger, makes you respond faster to events around you. However, we are facing not only coronavirus, but also the economic and political instability. Problems have arisen in tourism: borders with countries of the near and far abroad have been closed. Businesses are suffering.

If there is chaos around, people give in to panic and do not understand how to act. In this state, we cannot be rational. For example, people are buying up foodstuffs without realizing whether they really need them. The problem is that in a situation of panic it is difficult to remain a mere observer, and its fearsome power lies in the fact that everyone becomes panic-stricken to one degree or another. In the first wave, people with high trait anxiety are at risk of panic behaviour.

— How not to give in to panic in such a situation?

— In order not to panic, you need to take all the information about coronavirus rationally. It is important to monitor your general condition: if you feel uncomfortable while reading or watching the news on this topic, or feel anxious and deny the problem, it is better to limit the incoming information. For example, get the information only from the trusted sources, such as state television channels, or check it for truthfulness. Optimistic information, such as jokes or memes, will help those, who are often on social networks, cope with panic. It is important to distract from the topic of the disease to such positive incentives as your favourite music or hobby. And, of course, discipline and self-organization will help keep calm and not go to extremes.

Photo: Svetlana Morozova, Head of the SUSU Department of General Psychology, Psychodiagnostics, and Counselling, Candidate of Sciences (Psychology), Associate Professor

— Now students and teachers have switched to distance work. How not to lose productivity in such conditions?

— If we are talking about students, then external monitoring can help them. That is, teachers need to monitor whether students are present in the chat, and whether they are completing assignments. Maybe additional control in the form of a test, which will be carried out at the end of the distance work, will help see if students have acquired knowledge. I think everyone will quickly get used to the new format, although distance learning is also not easy. However, you need to understand that there is compensation: we do not waste our time on the road and can work from a comfortable place, and therefore, we must observe discipline and attend classes.

An internal mood state is also important. Teachers should prepare students for distance learning, for example, write down the conditions for distance learning in instruction letters.

It is important for both teachers and students to remember that "remote" weekdays are ordinary working and academic days. Therefore, you need to get up and go to bed on a schedule, work or study in a prepared place, not on the couch or on the bed. You can even dress like you are going to university. This will help to focus on work.

SUSU has a well-functioning Electronic SUSU 2.0 portal. We have been mastering it for a long time. So, distance activity will be productive.

— Can self-isolation, which people face now, lead to psychological deterioration?

— We need to understand that short isolation cannot be highly damaging to the human psyche. But we can feel very worried, if we do not know when this isolation from others will end. The matter is that people cannot live in a situation of eternal war and tension. Awareness that there is control from "above" helps cope with anxiety. If the authorities take some measures and explain why these are needed, panic and anxiety go away.

That is why I'd say it again now, that in our situation there will be no harm to the human psyche. We are in a familiar home environment, we are not under quarantine. It is necessary to see positive aspects in self-isolation. After all, all restrictions are undertaken for our good.

— Often you can hear complaints about dismal mood and lack of energy from people who are confined within four walls. How to handle this?

— When we are at home, we lead a sedentary lifestyle, and because of this sluggishness, apathy or even depression can really occur. After all, the brain actively works only when we move. Therefore, a clear schedule of work and rest gives us a feeling of good mood and energy. If we wake up at the same time, breathe fresh air, even if it's on the balcony, alternate between rest and mental work, then we can easily cope with bad mood. It is very important to make physical exercises. Also, in order to feel the positive effect of being at home, you can do things that previously did not fit into your schedule.

— What can be done to feel like you are part of the society while at home?

— Whether this is necessary or not, first of all, depends on the person. Introverts may even be happy about the forced isolation. It will be more difficult to overcome the situation for more sociable people who need direct contact. But we can keep in touch with our loved ones, receive their support and give it to them through social networks and phone calls. But it’s important to minimize negative news about the pandemic in the world and, most importantly, not to panic.

Daria Tsymbaluk; photo by the author,
Contact person: 
Daria Tsymbaluk, 272-30-11
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