Local experts discuss dealing with insecurities while learning, working remotely

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Dr. Maisarah Momen, of Mercy Health, said studies have shown prolonged exposure to staring at a computer or only a person's eye contact can be exhausting

(WKBN) – Everyone deals with insecurities, and it seems those have become heightened as more people use video to digitally meet for classes and to talk with co-workers.

Insecurities can range from how does one look to how they sound and what clothes they’re wearing.

“It’s kind of a necessity, and their teachers are going to require them to show their face, and I also think it’s just important for both the teachers and students to see each other face-to-face to make a connection and to read non-verbals,” said John Vitto, director of special services at Canfield Schools.

It’s also important for teachers to create a connection with students that makes them feel safe and that they belong so that they are comfortable learning this way. This is especially important for schools that might have new students this year who might not know other students in the class.

“In other words, there are expectations for the way we treat one another, and those are the same in-person and in the virtual world and that the students know that those are the expectations and they’re going to treat others with respect,” Vitto said.

Teachers can create this environment by meeting individually with students one-on-one to create a relationship that helps foster a feeling of safety and connection to the class.

Dr. Maisarah Momen, a psychiatrist with Mercy Health in Youngstown, agrees it’s important for individuals to be able to see each other but said it’s important to take breaks from it each day.

“Studies have shown that staring at a computer or Zoom can actually be pretty difficult on the brain, and one of the main things why is because the only real social cue you’re getting is this intense eye contact the whole time,” Momen said.

Social media is also a culprit to advancing insecurities because, in many cases, it’s not real or it’s only showing one side of things.

“You just have to keep in mind that that’s just one small aspect of themselves. People are only really posting the positive things, the picture-perfect positive things, and that’s not life, that’s maybe 5%,” Momen said. “What you see is not 100% reality.”

Keeping that in mind and keeping things realistic is important, and she also said breaks from virtual and digital life are important throughout the day as well. Momen suggests turning off the camera, occasionally, and walk and talk to reduce stress and induce creativity.

“Maybe just at the beginning of the meeting everyone say hi, see who’s there, and just turn off the camera and talk via the phone,” Momen said. “I’m not saying all the time because it is helpful to see people face-to-face.”

Both Momen and Vitto said it’s important that everyone take care of themselves mentally, emotionally and physically.

“I just think there’s a general increase in anxiety. It makes that repertoire building and relationships that much more important,” Vitto said. “That the students are doing things to take care of themselves, sleeping right, eating right, getting enough physical exercise, and making sure to have a support system and relying on that support system. All of those are critical for dealing with insecurity and the anxieties that we’re all dealing with right now.”

Momen added waking up on time, not wearing pajamas all day, maintaining hygiene, volunteering and crafting can help. She also stressed the importance of continuing to get help mentally and seek it out if needed. She said the emergency room is the best place to go if someone needs help immediately.

Just because the pandemic’s going on right now, those resources are still available, so don’t shut down, even if it’s seeing people virtually or appointments, talking on the phone,” Momen said. “If you have any preexisting issues with mental illness, just keep following up with treatment. Don’t stop doing that.”

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