On the record: dealing with camera shyness in the world of online lectures

For those who struggle with anxiety, introversion, or are just plain camera-shy, online lectures can be terrifying. University classes have always been something that we can leave on campus, but in the current pandemic they are literally invading our homes, with lecturers popping up on-screen in our private spaces to ask us questions and (more troubling) to expect answers. Now that we’re in a second lockdown, and expecting to be online until at least mid-February, here are some strategies to help you cope with the stress of being on-camera during the next term.

1) Have a designated ‘lecture hall’

Psychologically speaking, it’s always good to have a set space in which to do certain tasks. By associating a space with an activity, you’ll be in the right mindset to complete the task at hand. As tempting as it can be to stay in bed for that 9AM class you’re dreading, don’t! You don’t want to start associating your comfort space with something stressful. Unfortunately, a lot of student housing doesn’t cater to a separate study room, but you can at least ensure that your desk feels lecture-appropriate. Have a cup of tea to hand and stick some motivational quotes around your desk to keep up morale.

2) Stress-busting tools

It can be really hard to sit still during a long lecture, particularly if you’re anxious about being on camera! Having something on your desk like a fidget spinner, stress ball, or other quiet activity can be a good physical distraction if you’re feeling nervous. Anxiety of any kind can make it difficult to concentrate, so having something to do with your nervous energy can be really helpful for keeping focused.

3) Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises are really helpful for loads of anxiety-inducing situations. They decrease your heart rate and get the oxygen flowing, which will help reduce chances of panic. It’s important to remember that breathing exercises are something to practise when you’re calm in order to effectively implement them in times of need. Here is a helpful link exploring some different techniques to practise and use before class, or even while your mic is muted and your camera is off.

4) Write it down

Another good skill for managing anxiety is to write down how you’re feeling as you’re feeling it. Putting pen to paper and realising your emotions in black and white can make them seem smaller than they feel. It’s also another good way to burn up nervous energy. Although this might distract you a little during your class, scribbling it out before or at the start of the lecture might help you get these feelings out of the way so that they won’t bother you as much during the session.

5) Dress good, feel good

We’re all guilty of staring at the little rectangle that belongs to our face in the bottom-right of the screen. So, if you’re going to do it anyway, you might as well look good! Build up your confidence by wearing a nice outfit on lecture days. Try out a new hairstyle or restyle your favourite clothes. Dress like the confident person you want to be in your classes; you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel if you’re confident about how you look!

6) Talk to someone

If you can’t cope with the stress of being on camera, there is absolutely no reason not to discuss this with your lecturer, personal tutor or another trusted staff member. This is an unprecedented time, and they know that you will have anxieties about many aspects of your studies. Try asking if you can be exempt from being on-camera. If it’s the talking aspect you’re uncomfortable with, ask if you can use the chat function on Teams to answer questions instead. I hope these tips are helpful to you if you’re struggling with anxiety about being on camera for your classes. Remember, your lecturers are humans too, and they don’t want you to be uncomfortable! Also, if this is becoming a real issue for you, don’t hesitate to contact Student Wellbeing for some extra support- it’s what they’re there for.

Do you have any tips for managing anxiety and camera shyness in the new world of online lectures? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.

by Rebecca Preedy

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