An Athlete’s Guide to Self-Sufficiency and Mental Resilience

With Angelo Rossetti

by Abigail Roth and Angelo Rossetti

Lockdown has undoubtedly been a difficult time for everyone, especially those who have been prohibited from doing what they love. Athletes, specifically, and those who enjoy sports just for fun, have been unable to join together with their teammates and friends, and have had to put their athletic development and goals on hold. Now, as athletic centers begin to open and gatherings are increasingly permitted across the U.S., sports lovers will be able to get back out there and work on their skills. It is during this time of reopening that I was able to speak with the greatest influence in my athletic endeavors, tennis instructor and author extraordinaire, Angelo Rossetti. An inspirational man on and off the court, Angelo has been developing a teaching method that helps athletes get in the best mental shape to perform on the court, field, or track. He has named it The 3-2-1 Method, and it encourages an athlete to self-coach as they work on different tasks, promoting mental and emotional resiliency. I asked him about his new book, Tennacity: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, and how his methods can be applicable to people like you and me who are looking to get back out and play. 

Q: Hi there, Angelo. Tell me a bit about yourself. 

A: I was certified over 25 years ago as a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Elite as well as a Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and United States Tennis Association (USTA) High Performance & Mental Skills certified teaching professional. I am a 2X Guinness World Records™ titleholder of two different tennis titles; the Longest Tennis Rally (25,944 strokes lasting 14 hours and 31 minutes) and the Longest Tennis Volley Rally (30,576 volleys lasting 5 hours and 28 minutes), both of which acted as fundraisers for charity. I studied to be a Dale Carnegie instructor, as I wanted to learn and teach the best ways to learn! I was elected in 2017 as one of the youngest Presidents of USTA Connecticut (2018-2020). I was a Division 1 player at the University of Connecticut, where I earned a B.S. degree in Sports Science with a concentration in Sports Marketing. I have been awarded multiple prestigious awards by the USTA; the one I am most proud of is the 2005 USTA Sportsmanship Award. In 2007, my identical twin brother, Ettore, and I were ranked #1 in New England Men’s Open Doubles and I was top 10 in singles. One of my other proud accomplishments was earning the National 2016 USPTA Lessons for Life Award by helping raise over $112,000 for the nonprofit organization Save the Children. I’ve coached women’s teams and captained and played on 5.0 and Open USTA men’s teams. I have a passion for speaking, having done so five times at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, as well as at the Connecticut Invention Convention at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion. I am philanthropic-minded and still raise money for causes I care about, most recently helping to generate close to 3,000 petition signatures and going on a media tour to help save UConn tennis. I have coached not only tennis but basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. I live in Hamden with my wife and two children, a daughter, Madison (Maddie) and son, Andrew (Andy). I have a passion for caring for and inspiring people at every age, on and off the court. I believe strongly in the 4 Gs: Get a Dream, Goal Set, Goal Get, and Give Back, which leads to success in tennis and in life. I love sharing ideas via the written word.

Q: What is the 3-2-1 Method and how did you come up with it? How has it been helpful to you as a coach during lessons? 

A: The 3-2-1 method is a way to learn quicker, more effectively, from the inside out rather than the outside in. It allows the student to be more aware of what’s happening so that they can coach themselves in matches. It was originally inspired by Tim Gallwey, author of the Inner Game of Tennis, and then crystallized while getting to know and hit with Sean Brawley, who was mentored by Tim. I have read the Inner Game of Tennis several times as the mental aspect was the strongest part of my game according to my coach and teammates when I played at UConn. I  was interested in learning and teaching others to be mentally strong and resilient, especially under pressure. Mental strength and emotional resilience is something extremely important now with the “new normal” of dealing with COVID-19.

The key to coaching or teaching athletes is having them learn to “control the controllables;” which leads to stronger skill acquisition and retention. What’s important is not doing everything right but focusing on the right things. But what are the right things? If someone isn’t aware of something, then it doesn’t exist in their mind’s eye. Just like a magician uses misdirection to set the audience up for their trick, we as tennis coaches must have our players avoid the pitfalls of focusing on the wrong things, that is, technique or the result. 

As an example, let’s discuss the point of contact (P.O.C.), or the placement of the tennis ball on the strings of the racquet. When you hit the ball on the sweet spot call out “3.” When you hit the ball just off the center of the sweet spot call out “2.” When you hit the ball on any part of the frame then call out “1”. I make players promise that they won’t use the result (whether the ball was hit in the net or out) as a bias for their number. A solid 3 hit into the bottom of the net is still a 3. The two goals are the accuracy of awareness and improvement of the number of point-of-contact hits. If you hit the frame and call out “3,” then something needs to be adjusted and if you hit the sweet spot and call out “1,” something was awry as well. Over time you want to get more 3s and 2s, and less 2s and 1s. Every hit should have a number called out to ensure that the player is focused on every shot. Have them call it out as soon as they know. This is helpful because the sooner you know the quality of your shot in competition, the earlier your anticipation, which helps with improved preparation for your next shot. Try not to have the players call it out too early; that is, guess. Also, try not to have them call it out too late; that is, delayed awareness or reaction. 

You are removing opinion and replacing it with fact and perception. A “1” shot isn’t bad; it just is a “1” or it just is, what it is. Keep in mind that you are not correcting if the number is incorrect. This is not about “fixing” anything; nothing is broken. It is about a sense of being, mindfulness, fine-tuning, refining and honing your awareness. Not correcting, refining. Not fixing, fine-tuning. Remove “good,” “bad,” “wrong,” or “right.” It just is what it is.

Next, ask these crucial questions:

1. Was it easy or difficult to call out the number?

2. Did you remember to always call out the number?

3. How were you able to call out the number? (visual, auditory,

or kinesthetic awareness)

4. Were the numbers increasing over time? If they did, they improved.

The beautiful thing about this method is that you can apply 3-2-1 to any shot, strategy, or circumstance. Your game, whatever it may be, will improve once you refine your awareness. In addition, you aren’t focusing on the many things that would be negative distractions; who is watching you, what the score is, how poorly your doubles partner is playing, if your opponent is being coached, bad line calls, etc. In other words, if you focus on 3-2-1, you can’t focus on the negative things that would deteriorate your game. This gradually removes counter-productive emotions and replaces them with logical thinking and fact.

Q: Tell me a bit about tennacity.org and your book! How and when did you decide to focus on these projects? 

A: Over ten years ago I told my brother Ettore that I wanted to write a book. He said,  “Well if you set a world record first, then you can write your book.” We set the U.S. record for the longest tennis rally in 2007 but it wasn’t until August of 2008 when we set our second record did I know that a book was inevitable. It took me a while to make the commitment to it but once I did it took me about four years to finish my book, Tennacity: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, which is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. I would like to give thanks, also, to USA Olympic Gold Medalist Laura Wilkinson, whose course, “The Confident Competitor” helped me get over the last hurdle toward publishing the book. I also purposely started a blog, www.tennacity.org, to force myself to regularly put my thoughts, insights, and inspirations into writing. I wrote about one new article per month, which typically represented a new chapter in the book. I will be launching an online course named after the book that will stem from the blog, so definitely check it out!

Q: In these strange coronavirus times, how can athletes stay mentally sharp and strong even when they may not be able to get out and play/practice? 

A: Athletes can journal every day to be aware of what they are thinking. Monitoring positive self-talk and rephrasing negative, counter-productive thoughts to positive ones is key to strengthening any athlete’s mental game. I actually created the “10 Coronavirus Controllables” (below) to help athletes with being both positive and productive during these challenging times. I believe that people should focus on improving themselves and comparing themselves with only themselves. You won’t have time to worry about others, but rather, you’ll stay focused on being the best that you can be on the field or court and off.

The 10 Coronavirus Controllables

#1. BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

Ask yourself when you start to feel anxious or worried “Is there something that I can do RIGHT NOW to remedy this?” If not, then it’s an uncontrollable. It is what it is, shift your focus to your controllables.

#2. CONTROL YOUR CONTROLLABLES

Once you know what your controllables are, control them. You can control your attitude, effort, grit, resilience, joy, and being present. Be aware of the world around you but don’t control others. Focus on controlling what you can – YOU.

#3. PROCRASTINATE YOUR WORRY

Use natural procrastination to your advantage. Put off your worry of your uncontrollables to a future date … and maybe that date will never come.

#4. BE PRODUCTIVE

If you can structure your day you’ll be in a better mindset. Small successes and accomplishments will lead to positive energy and emotions. Create daily routines and stick to a daily schedule, even though it may be drastically different than what it was in the past.

#5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE & FORGIVENESS

It’s scientifically proven that expressing gratitude puts you in a better mindset. Come up with at least one specific thing that you are grateful for and write it down or act on it like sending a thank you note, checking up on someone, or just being thoughtful. Life is too short to hold grudges or worry about what people think of you. Forgive others for something that may be festering. It will not only make them feel better but it will make you feel better.

#6. BE EMPATHETIC

Ask others how you can help them. This is a great way to hone your listening skills. Be PRESENT for others and for yourself. The best way to help yourself is to help others. We are all in this together. Together we make each other better.

#7. READ MORE

This is the ideal time to finish the book you’re on or pick up a new book to dive into. Time block at least 10 minutes per day for reading or listening to audiobooks or podcasts.

#8. MAKE JOURNALING A HABIT

Having a daily journal can help with jotting down ideas, inspirational quotes, reflections, how you can reinvent yourself and how to become a better and stronger you. Even if it’s using it as a way to meditate, reflect, or express gratitude, journaling is a positive habit to continue to develop.

#9. REFOCUS

You can be aware of what’s going on with COVID-19 but don’t focus on it (unless you are a doctor or healthcare professional). Focus on your purpose and what’s really important to you now more than ever, even if you have to reinvent yourself. Become the best YOU that you can be.

#10. FIND YOUR JOY – LIVE ON PURPOSE WITH PURPOSE

Stay focused on what’s unique about you. Double-down on your purpose and inspire others in the process. Reflect on how your purpose in life helps others. Be present to allow yourself to enjoy every moment, no matter how difficult.

10 CORONAVIRUS CONTROLLABLES

© 2020 Angelo A. Rossetti, http://www.tennacity.org. For additional helpful information see Control My

Controllables During Competition on page 129 of the book TENNACITY: The Tenacious Mindset

Q: How can athletes become involved with you and your coaching methods? How can they stay in touch/be updated, etc.? 

A: The best way is to visit www.tennacity.org or find me on social media. Web: www.Tennacity.org, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Please feel free to email angelo@tennacity.org with suggestions, feedback, or your own inspirational stories. I welcome your goals, success stories, inspirational quotes, or challenges.

by Eleanor Kelman

I recently listened to a talk by Dr. Michael J. Breus, also known as “the Sleep Doctor,” in which he discussed the science of sleep. He was one of the featured speakers on an externship I (and thousands of other people trapped in limbo between school and not being able to find work) have been participating in, and his talk really resonated with me in a way few talks do. Typically, when I listen to a presentation I’m constantly fidgeting and attempting to keep myself from multitasking–well, distracting myself by scrolling through my Instagram feed or perusing Reddit forums. Listening to Dr. Breus speak was different. I was fully, wholeheartedly engaged in what he was telling me to do to improve my sleep schedule, and not once did I think about turning on my phone. I was so surprised at my own sustained focus that I attempted to figure out why I was able to pay attention for the full hour.

Maybe it was just his manner of speaking, but that’s never really been much of a factor for me. Other than once falling asleep while a beautiful voice slowly lulled me into dreamland while discussing the rather un-dreamlike topic of physics, I’ve never noticed the tone of voice in talks. Perhaps he was just a wonderful orator in general? Well, yes, but even the most passionate of speakers can still make me lose focus (of absolutely no fault of their own, mind you!). No, I finally came to the conclusion that what he was talking about was simply so fascinating and pertinent to me.

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[My newest idol… who also looks quite a bit like one of my favorite college professors?]

Sleep has been a point of contention for me for a long time. I sustained myself on a solid 4-5 hours during weekdays in high school, which led to a lot of dozing off in class and some lunch hours devoted to a quick power nap. In college, my quality of sleep improved ever-so-slightly but still negligibly. A roommate freshman year took to letting her alarm sound for two hours straight every morning, which always gave me a very rude awakening with zero reprieve. I never established a true sleep routine, even during my sophomore year while living with my boyfriend at the time who turned off the lights at midnight each night (while I toiled away on the computer next to him). Senior year I made a valiant effort to go to bed at the same time every night, but that was squandered by two suitemates who would be up yelling and playing music until two or three in the morning much to my chagrin. I never really got that coveted “sleep schedule” thing down pat.

I no longer had any excuse once quarantine started due to the fact that my house is a couple hundred decibels quieter at 9pm than my suite on campus was at 3am, but I still managed to finagle an excuse or two in there. I was going to bed at around 12 am and waking up around 8am to 8:30am depending on how many times I hit snooze, but I still couldn’t shake that desire to get up earlier and truly spend the morning being productive. I am certainly my most productive prior to lunchtime so I wanted to prioritize that time. Unfortunately, a lack of drive got in the way of those well-laid plans, but I still continuously wished I could be a bit better in a number of regards. From drinking caffeine at 8pm to rolling out of bed at a snail’s pace, I kept avoiding achieving my personal goals of maintaining a true sleep schedule and becoming a certifiable morning person.

Listening to Dr. Breus’s presentation lit a fire under me so to speak. I suppose it wasn’t actually the presentation at all, but hearing someone else say, “Do this thing,” made me want to do that thing, the thing I had been putting off for so long because it was solely a “me” thing. I dove in headfirst.

Instead of trying the recommended method of moving your alarm back 15 minutes every week until you reach your desired wake-up time, I went all in and jumped it to 7am and figured I would deal with the jetlag later. I also ended up setting two alarms: a digital alarm clock and my phone. With this, I had to jump out of bed to turn off the second alarm after the first one sounded. In addition, I made a pledge to myself to not just lie back down and fall asleep. I spend the first couple of minutes every morning in a hazy stupor but I allow myself to go back to sleep if I’m still tired half an hour after I wake up. Interestingly, I’m no longer tired by that point.

Returning to the Sleep Doctor, I’m supposed to fall asleep at 11:10pm to wake up at 7am every night. While I do attempt to fall asleep at 11pm, I ensure that I’m up and making my bed at 7am no matter when I fall asleep–thankfully, it’s never crossed 12:30am, a terribly late bedtime for me now that I’ve ascended to being a grandma. I’ve also stopped drinking a latte too early in the morning, which is an easier task than expected because I’ve replaced it with chugging water while I work out (I need to drink a concerning amount of water during the summer).

Who knew that presentations could be useful outside of getting participation credit for a class?

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[Herbal teas have replaced my nightly latte habit, a worthy companion to my bedtime routine.]

I won’t pretend that I’m not browsing the web at night or that I no longer engage in any unsavory nighttime habit, especially as nearly every night I’m on a video call with a friend, but I’ve been able to do just enough to achieve a goal I never thought really possible for me. On a very small level, waking up at 7am and not bemoaning my situation is amazing. It has represented for me such strong discipline that allows everything else to fall into place once I’ve gotten out of bed and started to get moving. On top of that, I can finally say with utmost certainty that I know I’m getting enough sleep, something I couldn’t say without crossing my fingers behind my back for most of my life.

Sleep may be for the weak, but I’ve got a real weakness for it.

 

 

By Catherine Duffy

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an event like no other for the present population. The three-month isolation period changed life as we know it as plans were cancelled and a new way of life surfaced. But did everyone have the same general experience? It is known that there are two big personality types in our world: the introverts and the extroverts. Some people even identify as a mixture of both. The quarantine has allowed these two personality types to peer into the other’s way of life. What unique emotional changes have introverts and extroverts experienced in 2020? 

Merriam Webster defines an extrovert as “a gregarious and unreserved person” whereas an introvert is known as “a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone”.

The beginning of isolation back in March provided a major life change to extroverts around the world. The social beings began to feel trapped knowing that seeing friends and family was officially against the law, and that social calls to cafes were strictly prohibited. Social media and video calls filled their days at home and helped them put their social energy to use.

While staying at home reading books and making puzzles made the extroverts stir crazy, the introverts were extremely delighted. There was so much time to recharge now that time alone was just part of every day routine. New solitary hobbies were adopted and their anxieties may have begun to vanish. As an introvert myself, I discovered that I had much more energy to call friends and family at the end of the day having had so much quiet time to recharge on my own. 

While the extroverts counting down the days to freedom, the introverts may have taken every as a blessing. The social anxieties of big group gatherings, presentations and hours of interacting with others as they worked became a thing of the past.

Now that many restrictions have been lifted, a bit of the opposite has happened. Extroverts rejoice as they return to work. They have been finally granted the opportunity to socialize and talk to their hearts content once again. Introverts, on the contrary, have been reintroduced to the stress and social anxiety they knew before the quarantine.

Though this year has been filled with disappointment and tragedy, it seems as though both introverts and extroverts have gained insight into the other’s way of life. Whether it be being forced inside or forced to return to the outside world again, perhaps both personalities have gained a certain appreciation for the other’s routines as they have had the opportunity to explore them. Perhaps with this new insight, both personalities will be able to live in harmony, or at least show understanding when the other isn’t emotionally content.

by Molly Rosenfeld

I’ll start off by saying I am not much of an athlete, never was, and probably never will be. My lung capacity is below average, I don’t have much in the way of upper body strength, and I’m not particularly flexible.

As a young child, I participated in swimming, ballet, soccer, and gymnastics. It was important to my parents that I got good aerobic exercise at least once a week and that I tried a variety of activities to find a good fit. After I learned how to rollerblade at 10, I wanted to ice skate. I loved it from my very first public session, and my parents signed my sister and me up for group classes.

To my own surprise, skating came relatively easily to me. I have a good balance and have enjoyed learning new elements and choreography. I passed the five recreational levels within a year and began learning jumps and spins. 

In seventh grade, I had other commitments and had to take time off. I started playing recreational volleyball and joined the swim team at my high school, but found that I didn’t really enjoy either one. 

I later took a dance class at school, and “jumped” at the chance to start ice skating again. I signed up for more group classes on weekends and have been going once or twice a week ever since. For the past five years, I have worked with a private coach. When I’m in Southern California with my family, I go to The Rinks-Lakewood ICE. It’s truly become another home for me. I walk through the doors and I know I’ll be around people who care about me, who are people I deeply care about in return. 

Last August, I moved to Northern California to attend San Jose State University. I started up with group classes at Solar4America Ice-San Jose. I don’t feel the same connections and love that I do at Lakewood, but it’s been a nice change of pace.

And then… the pandemic happened.

It’s been difficult taking time off, but I suppose absence does make the heart grow fonder. I’m looking forward to beginning taking the United States Figure Skating sanctioned tests and thus begin competing. Thus far I’ve only taken tests through the Ice Sports Industry and competed on a recreational basis against myself or only one other person in my division.

Ice skating is an expensive pastime, but I’ve found it worth every penny. It’s my favorite outlet, exercise and socialization all rolled into one! I plan on skating for the rest of my life.

I reached out to a couple of coaches I’ve known for years to learn what professionals are currently doing.

Angel Sarkisova started skating when she was 6 years old and has been coaching for about 10 years. She will be transferring to California State University Los Angeles this fall as a communication major.

Q: At what point during your childhood did you realize that you truly enjoyed and had a talent for ice skating?

A: I realized I loved skating almost right away about a week into coming back consistently. I realized I had some natural ability for the sport shortly thereafter and decided to commit myself full-time to try to reach my full competitive potential.

Q: What are your favorite memories from being a coach?

A: I have so many favorite/special memories from being a coach. I really can’t remember specifics anymore, but rather the especially special moments. My favorite memories of coaching come from my everyday conversations, milestones, and accomplishments my kids achieve on a regular, non-special day. In other words, my favorite moments happen every day, while I share some kind of special interaction between one of my skaters and myself.

Q: How do you think coaching and skating will change when we return after the pandemic?

A: After the pandemic, unfortunately, I think things will change in ways that will hurt the progress of skating for a while. It will be hard to correct skaters without being able to physically touch or get close to them. Ice time will be much harder to come by and reserve, and we will have to take extra precautions that will take time away from effective training. However, that being said, whatever gives the people and customers peace of mind and safety is most important. So I’ll take whatever we can get when we all get back on the ice, whenever that is.

Skye Wheeler Koachway received a BA in English Rhetoric and Composition from California State University Long Beach and began coaching during her second year of college.

Q: At what point during your childhood did you realize that you truly enjoyed and had a talent for ice skating?

A: I started skating after a Girl Scout field trip to Paramount Iceland when I was 6, and I think I loved it immediately. For sure, I know that I begged my mom for lessons and she finally signed me up the January after I turned 7. She thought I’d take one session of classes and then be over it but of course I loved it and wanted to continue. I don’t remember not skating and I always thought I was “meant to be” a skater.

Q: What are your favorite memories from being a coach?

A: I have so many favorite coaching moments! I’m trying to think of a favorite and can’t think of just one. I love watching my skaters grow up. Most skaters will not become world champions so I always try to think about how I’d like to help them learn actual “life skills”- hard work, positivity, kindness, and sportsmanship. I’ve also loved working on the synchronized skating teams and the shows; the team comradery is amazing!

Q: How do you think coaching and skating will change when we return after the pandemic?

A: I think we’re going to get back on the ice very slowly, beginning with freestyles. Coaches will need to wear masks and be spaced out along the walls. I think some skaters will quit during this break, but the ones who return will really know they love it.

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(Selfie at the 2019 ISI Winter Classic Competition!)

image4(With Coach Nha-Quyen Nguyen after I passed my Bronze Freestyle test in July of 2018.)

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(With Coach Skye Wheeler Koachway at my first ISI competition.)

image1(The badges I’ve earned for passing the Freestyle 1, Ice Dance 1, and Freestyle Bronze Tests.)

 

 

By Catherine Duffy

Lunches with grandma, birthday celebrations in our favourite diners, and late night drinks at the bar have all been activities I’ve missed during the quarantine. As of June 8th 2020, the province of Saskatchewan announced that restaurants could open their doors once again. While residents may believe that their dining experiences will remain the same as they were before the pandemic, there are several changes they must stay aware of.

Having recently begun working in a restaurant myself and having taken the opportunity to eat in my favourite restaurants since their reopening, here are some of the changes I’ve noted.

1. Restaurant staff will be wearing masks to protect not only customers but also themselves. Busy kitchens and interactions with dinner guests make physical distancing impossible so masks serve as the next best thing to prevent catching COVID-19.

Source: Pexels

2. Hand sanitizing stations have been set up all around restaurants to remind people to clean their hands as much as possible. Staff members have set up timers to ensure they are washing their hands regularly.

3. High touch surfaces are getting regular cleaning treatment. This is a restaurant manager’s way of making sure they are doing everything that they can to prevent a second wave.

4. One-way traffic has become mandatory inside certain restaurants and there is always one door for entering and one door to exit. While this might make the walk to the bathroom longer, it helps guests avoid coming within six feet within one another.

5. While many may be eager to return to their favourite restaurants, by law, they can only operate at half capacity. Reservations may be the best way to guarantee a table for two on a Friday night. By operating at a limited capacity, restaurants can ensure that people from different social circles stay apart by placing a few empty tables between parties.

5. Your food may be placed at the far end of the table to avoid a waiter having to reach across the table and come in close contact with restaurant goers. While the service may seem incomplete, it is in the public’s best interest.

6. Though servers are usually prompt to clear away dirty plates, some may walk away from your table leaving them behind. This is to avoid cross contamination. Bussers have been hired to handle the dirty dishware.

7. Finally, while it may seem like the perfect chance to get together with a big group of friends, whom you haven’t seen in months, parties are limited to six guests per table, by law.

Source: Pexels

Dining with these new guidelines in place is a new reality and while some may be excited to return outside again, others may believe there is still too much of a risk and stay inside. Though it may seem like going out to eat has become a chore with many rules to follow, if everyone follows government implemented guidelines, people may begin to socialize again while still physically distancing and ensuring the safety of their fellow citizens. 

by Abbey Ross

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(A girl looks at her phone with a sense of fear)

If you are a technology user living in 2020, you have undoubtedly seen tremendous amounts of troubling and stressful news stories during the past few months. Television channels are clogged with their usual politics, crime, and celebrity news, but now an entirely new topic has crammed its way into the already overwhelming news cycle. Yes, you guessed it: COVID-19.  As if turning on the news wasn’t stressful enough, we now have more portable—and more intrusive—forms of technology that ding and beep at us as soon as the death toll rises, a gaggle of gun-wielding protesters emerges, or a politician makes a statement on Twitter. 

If you are like most people, including myself, who feel like they’re drowning in a river of events and notifications, you’re probably looking for a way to get some air, to escape the never-ending rapids. How are you supposed to do this, though, when we live in such a quickly evolving world where it seems like every hour brings another devastating wave of events? 

For some people, the solution is to just turn it all off. They take their phones and hide them in another room, silence notifications, and escape into the world of Netflix or a good novel. In all my efforts to do this, however, I’ve felt suddenly and alarmingly disconnected. What if my sister calls or my friends need my advice? What if my boss emails me or a vaccine is found today and I miss it? I have listed some things that I have done when I just need to step back and take a break. They help me feel more grounded and less anxious while allowing me to maintain a healthier level of connectedness.

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(Being in front of a laptop can cause you undue stress)

Listen to Your Brain and Body—feelings of anxiousness can manifest in many different ways.

Be kind to yourself and be open to the sometimes subtle signs that your mind and body are overwhelmed. These can include anything from changes in appetite and sleep patterns to sudden tiredness, loss of motivation, loss of memory, and other mental and physical symptoms. For example, back in March at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I convinced myself I was sick because of tightness and pain in my chest. After a week or so, though, I noticed that I only felt these symptoms while reading or watching the news.

Communicate—tell your loved ones what you’re doing and why.

When you start to feel overwhelmed by being tethered to your phone or computer—whether by news alerts or lengthy debates in a group chat—don’t be afraid to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling. A simple text explaining where your head is at and that you will be stepping away for a little while should suffice. Your friends and family have surely been dealing with similar concerns lately and will likely support your choice to take a break.

Example: Hey guys, I hope you all are having a good day. I am a little overwhelmed with what we’ve been chatting about/the state of the world right now/my notifications, so I’m going to put my phone away for a bit and do something else. I’ll talk to you later.

Set Up an Alternative—find a less intrusive method of communication where someone can reach you if they really need to.

 If you are concerned about being completely disconnected from your phone (a very reasonable concern in this day and age), include in your message that someone can reach you if something urgent comes up. If you’re living at home right now like me, giving your friends, coworkers, or family members your home landline phone number is a great alternative.

Make it a Habit – set aside some no-phone time on a scheduled basis.

 By doing this, your contacts will be aware of what you’re up to every day from 3-5 pm, for example. They will know not to worry if you don’t answer right away, giving you some peace of mind to escape and relax.

 

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(Exercising is a great way to retreat from technology)

Use Your Free Time Wisely – once you have identified feelings of anxiousness and established some time away from the noise, make sure you really appreciate the silence.

Now that you have created some space for yourself to retreat from the endless stream of news and notifications, make sure you allow yourself to fully occupy this space! No sneaking looks at your phone or flipping on the news (even if it’s just for five minutes)! Do something that makes you feel calm and centered; for tips on mindfulness, exercise, yoga, and new activities during quarantine, check out these other BTP articles: 

Quarantine Activity: Learning a New Language

   Stretching it Out: Keeping Connected Through Yoga

   Staying Fit During a Pandemic

   Rediscovering Reading During Quarantine

   Meditating in a Time of Crisis: A “How-To” Guide in Clearing the Mind

 

 

 

By Eleanor Kelman:

One thing that Instagram has made abundantly clear to me is that everyone I know is baking delicious goods these days except for me. It seems like the whole world has acquired a passion for baking all at once, but the end product of baking has always appealed to me more than the process. It’s just so time-consuming, and my mile-a-minute brain is not suited for labors of love. However, there is something I have found time for myself to experiment with: beverages.

Like any good twenty-something, I miss being able to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus (Boston really does run on Dunkin’) and pick up a large decaf soy latte with raspberry shot whenever I needed something to sip on while doing homework. Even now, with Starbucks opening up slowly but surely, I’ve been sorely missing having fancy coffee and tea drinks at my disposal. The only solution I’ve come up with was making my own (without the methodical ratios required of a real cafe to label a drink a “latte”, an overly pedantic term that I like to use to refer to all milk-and-other stuff hybrids), and that quickly transformed from a necessity to one of my favorite things to do everyday.

So, here is a quick introduction to one area of study I’ve devoted quite a bit of research and a whole lot of passion to.

The easier beverage to master would be coffee, so if you already have a taste for it, I’d recommend starting your latte journey there. There are a hundred different ways to brew a cup of coffee, but the simplest method is just… use a coffee maker. Although it’s one thing I cannot wait to purchase, I don’t have an espresso machine or even a french press, so I make do with my dad’s coffee maker. Simply take some ground coffee beans (we have owned this one grinder for about as long as I’ve been alive), pack them into the machine, and turn it on. You might have to fiddle around with the ratios, but I’ve found that just following the most basic of directions brews a pretty decent cup of joe. And, voila! Your coffee base.

[Sometimes I’ll decorate my drinks with a sprinkling of cinnamon or another spice for some flair.]

Tea, on the other hand, is a bit less forgiving. First and foremost, there are different types of teas and tisanes (the latter being herbal mixtures not from the tea leaf, Camellia sinensis1). All “tea” (white, oolong, green, etc.) come from the same plant at different levels of oxidation. While the actual process behind tea harvesting is fascinating, the most important information is more based in trial-and-error. While all tea is wonderful in different uses, more robust teas, such as green or black tea, tends to handle additions better, and that includes the necessary milk to create a latte. They also just so happen to be more convenient to find in the United States, although the other types are certainly worth seeking out if you want to sip tea in its unadulterated form! Unless you want to invest in a tea strainer (mine looks like the Loch Ness Monster sticking out of the hot water; I call her Nessie), tea bags are your best bet. Black teas and tisanes such as rooibos or chamomile are hardest to mess up; just stick one in a cup with boiling water and let it steep for four or five minutes. Green teas require a bit more finesse, with slightly cooler water, and should not steep for longer than two-ish minutes. You’ll know instantly if it is overstepped, as it will taste incredibly bitter! Matcha is a slightly different beast, being powdered green tea rather than whole leaves and requiring frothing in a small cup of water, but there are a host of videos online showing how to create matcha in the most beautiful settings that just writing it in a blog would not do the process justice. Whether you prefer the strong bergamot notes of earl grey or the delicate nuttiness of genmaicha, making a latte with a tea base is a worthy meditative process.

[Nessie the Loch Ness tea strainer in her natural habitat.]

Now that you have your caffeinated (or decaffeinated, if that’s more your style) component prepped, it’s time to pick your milk. I prefer soy milk, as I enjoy the environmentally-friendliness of non-dairy milk, but will use the skim milk the rest of my family drinks in a pinch. In all honesty, milk is entirely up to personal preference: Maybe you like the creaminess of coconut milk, the nostalgic texture of whole milk, or the trendiness of oat milk. Different milks have different strengths, and whichever you choose (or if you forgo milk and just use a creamer) is going to turn out delicious. As a slight word of caution: If you want to froth your milk (an optional step I sometimes do for the aesthetics), dairy milk is going to work a bit better. I’ve found that whereas some dairy milk whipped for a few seconds with my milk frother then microwaved for twenty seconds to stabilize it will hold an insane amount of foam for what seems like hours, soy milk just doesn’t have the same “soapy” ability, although it does make a lovely foam in and of itself. The microwave step is essential to really increase the longevity of the milk foam, but obviously I skip it entirely when making an iced latte. As well, while I use a handheld frother, anything from a devoted machine to just shaking some milk in a covered jar for a while will make a snazzy display.

Finally, we have reached the moment to finish our latte! Just take your coffee or tea and add your milk. If it’s just too hot out, add some ice before your other ingredients. If you’re a rebel, add your milk first then stir in the rest. If you want beautiful latte art, me too. I haven’t unlocked that level of barista yet.

Although most days I just make a simple drink, sometimes I like to spend more time working on my lattes. It becomes a creative outlet for me, and while not every creation is particularly successful, all give me a sense of accomplishment. I have two Torani flavored syrups at home, unsweetened vanilla and unsweetened raspberry, and I plan to purchase more when these are used up. Both go great in coffee and I’ve found some good combinations with teas. An earl grey latte with some vanilla makes a delicious London fog, one of my go-tos. Any warming spices, such as ginger or cinnamon, play very nicely with coffee and black tea (there’s a reason masala chai is so popular!). I finagled the Turkish coffee my dad is always making on the stovetop into a latte, albeit a very assertive one. I’ve stopped getting the side-eye when icing it down and throwing in a ton of soy milk, despite it being a very, very Americanized take on my Middle Eastern roots. Once I even made a tangentially-related drink, horchata, a Latin American dessert drink made from rice, milk, and some spices. I could only drink a bit at a time (it’s so sweet), but I was very proud of myself for devoting an afternoon to it! On the other hand, my attempt at bubble tea didn’t turn out nearly as tasty as what I would buy from a cafe, but learning that tapioca starch and water make a sticky non-Newtonian fluid was a fun experience. I also quickly found that the fluffiness of dalgona coffee, despite being very popular online and stunning to look at, simply cannot be mixed into milk. It sits as a pretty layer of mediocre-tasting foam atop plain milk. I also discovered that the medicinal smell of almond extract is a lot to overcome, even when I balanced it with a good squirt of honey. And mixing hibiscus tea and milk is an absolutely horrid experience. Just… learn from my mistake with that one.

[Did you know that boba pearls are naturally white? I was surprised to find out!]

The best part of making a latte for me isn’t even always drinking it. While it is, of course, nice to reap the rewards of my labor, putzing around in the kitchen thinking of new and creative ways to make a drink or finally getting around to that recipe that had been saved in my bookmarks for a while feels really good. While the sense of accomplishment when a drink turns out cafe-worthy can make my entire day leagues better, making lattes is such a low-stakes game that even when I mess up three times over I still feel like I’ve been productive. So what if the latte of the day is quasi-inedible and I’m just drinking it out of spite? I still put time and effort into something, and that’s worthy of applause in and of itself.


1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea

by Lia Weinseiss

In the current times, it can be difficult to uphold friendships in ways that we have become accustomed to. We can’t share a dinner, go for drinks, and/or hang out at each other’s houses. It seems cruel that in these times when our mental health seems to be at its most fragile, we cannot even see a portion of our support system.

So what can you do? You can text, arrange Zoom calls, send letters, and send gifts. You can show your love and support by checking in every once in a while. While it is certainly a different, modernized form of friendship, it is possible. We do, after all, stay in contact with our home friends when we are at school and with our school friends when we are at home.

However, in these times when our mental health is so fragile and we are doing our best to keep our own heads above water, how much do we find ourselves with an obligation to ensure our friends are doing well? Is a weekly text enough or should it be daily? Are we bad friends if we can’t bring ourselves to do those Zoom calls?

man having a video call on his phone
Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

(Zoom is a popular method of calling, and people use it when they are distanced)

We are all going through different struggles, some of us more than others. “Family therapist Catherine Lewis says communication can be fraught when friends are experiencing the pandemic differently.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) If some of us are struggling more than others, it can often be difficult to have the will to reach out or even incite feelings of jealousy if some are dealing with isolation better than others. This can make it even more difficult to keep up friendships, especially if you are in the position of the one expected to keep up contact. 

Being alienated from friendships that used to be a part of daily life can create unexpected rifts because “people are now having to pick and choose what works in a friendship, and what’s maybe no longer a good fit.” (Noveck, Jocelyn) Without seeing people in person, we can easily read texts in a negative way or think that a lack of Snapchats means that a friendship is now lackluster or unimportant. A simple lack of communication can lead to rifts and the eventual fading away of a friendship. With extra time, self-reflection can help us realize that people who used to be in our lives may not have a place there anymore.

 To put it bluntly, this time can make or break a friendship; so, what are some tips you can use to stay close with your friends even if you can’t communicate with them?

  1. If you have a problem, address it.

In a time where verbal communication is one of the only tools we have, letting issues brew because it feels like there is more time to solve them is not the answer. Ignoring your friends or pretending things are normal will only amplify the issues – quarantine or not.

2. If you can check in, do it every now and then. If you can’t, let your friends know why.

Communication is key, though you are under no obligation to text your friends every day. That being said, in times when people are often struggling, texting a friend when you can will have an impact on their day. If you are unable to communicate daily, texting your friends and being honest can often avoid issues that are likely to arise by complete silence.

3. Set up Zoom events.

Though setting up Zoom meetings can sometimes feel like a burden, they can also be a beneficial way of bonding. A simple quiz as a reminder of enjoyable past moments can help bring back to life a friendship that feels largely online.

4. Set up a book trading system.

pile of books on green summer lawn in park
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

(sharing books is a great way to stay connected)

Being able to send books to one another not only lets you and your friends know what each other are thinking, but it also gives you more things to read and do. I’m not going to list out all of the benefits of reading, but it can definitely help.

5. Listen to your friends if you can.

If they are having issues, and you can take on the mental capacity to listen, do so. Talking out situations with your friends can often help strengthen a bond that might be fading because you cannot see one another face-to-face.

6. When asking friends if they have an ear to listen, ask if they are able.

Dumping issues on your friends when they are struggling themselves can create an unintended issue in a relationship. Just checking in with them to ensure they are okay can ensure that you create healthy boundaries in your relationship.

 

by Eleanor Kelman

When I first received news that my campus would be shutting down and classes would move to remote instruction due to COVID-19, my initial fear wasn’t directed at how I personally would adapt to the change; rather, I worried how my dad would fare. I had been living at my university in Boston, which quickly became one of the hot zones of the virus; however, once it became apparent that I would need to leave the bubble of my university housing, I only worried about the possibility of catching the virus. Though it does seem a bit shortsighted in hindsight, I truly believed I would be absolutely safe from catching the virus. At the time, the news was reporting that younger and otherwise healthy people would simply catch the equivalence of the common cold and recover without issue; therefore, I shrugged off the prospect of becoming gravely ill in the event I would become infected. However, once I realized I would need to head back home, I began to panic.

Like many others, despite not being in the at-risk group for COVID-19, I have family members who are. I’m living with my family at home, and my dad is immunocompromised. Even simply coming home from school made me nervous. Parties were thrown every night, and since I lived in a popular upperclassmen-only area of campus, these parties occurred directly outside my front door. I was at the crossroads of wanting to enjoy the final days of my college experience and not wanting to put myself, and subsequently my dad, at risk. I even considered trying to remain on campus or staying with my boyfriend’s family to avoid any chance of passing on the virus. Neither option would prove particularly feasible, and on top of that, my parents wanted me to come home so I could maintain a sense of normalcy.

My family is doing its best to act like we have the freedom to move around, but our need to be hypervigilant reigns supreme. My parents go shopping once every two weeks when the supermarkets open in the morning. We wear masks every time we leave the house to go on walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been keeping connected with friends via messages and video calls. At first, I found this to be a suitable substitute for actually living on campus close to my friends at all times, but lately, I’ve been feeling more and more antsy and fidgety. I have felt completely lost within my own thoughts for what seems like hours every day. The one time I got some reprieve when I drove to stay at my boyfriend’s house for a few days, I never left the car until I was at his house and reinstated my entire quarantine routine while there. When I returned home, I quarantined inside my bedroom for a week (with my parents placing food outside my door that I ordered by calling our home phone). My parents will crack the occasional joke about paranoia, but we understand that it’s something we all have to do in order to keep my dad safe.

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[Each of us has our own personal mask in my family. I got the groutfit one.]

It’s been difficult, to say the least. When I see friends posting on social media about going grocery shopping, I feel a pang of jealousy — my parents don’t allow my siblings and me to go to the store with them. I got plenty of messages like “Oh, that’s stupid!” when I documented my in-room quarantine to my Snapchat streaks, but it wasn’t stupid in my household. Sometimes I want to hop into my car and drive to the local hiking trail or shopping center just to get out of my head for a while, but I know that I shouldn’t. Maintaining safe quarantine practices isn’t all that essential for me, but it could be literally lifesaving for my family. I still can’t help those feelings of lamenting having to be so tightly-wound from sneaking in, though, no matter how much I know they are selfish. 

Whenever I get caught up in jealousy and a weird new-age type of FOMO I thought I had left behind at college, I find people in similar situations to mine. One of my best friends from childhood is severely immunocompromised and, for months, found themselves unable to leave the house just to take a walk. Many of my friends live with elderly family members and have been more worried than myself. Some people I know have even caught the virus themselves, know people who have caught it, or have come in contact with someone who caught it. I also know some people who are in the exact same boat I am with an immunocompromised member of the family.

In all honesty, it’s been a tough time for everyone. That being said, hearing how I’m not alone in my fears has made it a lot easier to handle. If I need to, I can call up a friend who understands my frustrations perfectly and just vent for an hour without feeling guilty. My support network has truly strengthened during quarantine, which was something I was not at all expecting when I said my “final” goodbyes to my friends before beginning the long drive from Boston. My friends and family have been there for me in a way I’m eternally grateful for, especially given that this has really challenged how close we are!
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[My beloved Google Calendar even has some standing friendship dates!]

Whereas remote learning was, pretty objectively, absolutely terrible, remote socialization has been lovely. People who I hadn’t seen in a while and had accidentally fallen off my radar (sorry!) due to my hectic pre-COVID day-to-day life have become my close friends again. I’ve been more inspired to reach out and initiate conversations, something I have always struggled with, due to the fact that there are no longer any real ramifications. After all, who is going to be too busy to video call? We’re all stuck here with too much time on our hands! And no one has lamented me being more active on social media; in fact, I’ve started commenting on posts of people I haven’t seen since high school who have found themselves elated to reinvigorate our friendships. Navigating and mastering social media to stay happy definitely had a bit of a learning curve for me at the start, but it’s allowed me to focus my energy on the people I really care about and fully nurture those friendships.

This isn’t to say that everything has been rainbows and sparkly unicorns and I love having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay home and relax. I’ve been terrified to leave my house, but I am equally afraid of the ramifications that come with staying inside. I miss my friends dearly and wish I could say I am too busy rather than too bored. That being said, the resilience I’ve seen in everyone, including myself in a way I don’t feel uncomfortable bragging about, has been inspiring. Quarantine has had its fair share of negative side effects, but I think it has presented a feeling of “we’re all in this together” that I have never felt before. When I chat with my friends for the umpteenth time about my problems and see them listen intently, it makes everything feel just a little bit better.

Especially with this pandemic going on, people are running out of ideas on what to do at home. Besides baking banana bread, oversleeping and engaging in heavy exercise, what many individuals decide to do is online shop. There’s essentially no drawback to online shopping. You can make fun purchases while also maybe supporting a small business. That being said, your finances can also suffer if you shop too much. Here are some of my favorite tactics to use when I shop in order to buy what I want but not spend too much money.

1. Use reputable and reliable websites.

  • This is not crucial since most websites that have good clothing may not be known, and sometimes small businesses are not known, so they are seen as not reputable. With that being said, be sure to do your research and find a good website that seems legitimate. 

2. Try not to impulse buy. 

  • Whenever I shop online, I really try to think about whether or not I absolutely want or need this clothing. I often leave the stuff in my shopping cart for a day or so, which gives me enough time to decide if I really want this top or these shoes. Another thing that helps me is to envision myself wearing said item; if I am not sure that I will like it, I won’t get it. Sometimes you’re surprised, but your intuition is usually correct; it’s often not worth buying something you’re not 100% sure about. 

3. Consider thrifting! 

  • Some websites are super expensive and people can’t justify spending so much money on certain items. Thrifting is a great way to save money on nice clothing. Now, it is very hit or miss, and you can’t really expect to find something. You also can’t really expect to come back and find it, because it might not be there. One time I went to a thrift store in Santa Barbara and found a cute pair of shoes but didn’t buy them because I was a few dollars short; when I came back, they were gone. You might have to expect this to happen. With that being said, thrifting saves a ton of money, helps the environment, and is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can also thrift online if you look hard enough; Instagram is all the rage to find thrifting accounts. 

4. Know your size.

  • Before you buy, MAKE SURE TO KNOW YOUR SIZE! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought clothes that don’t fit because I didn’t know my size. It’s hard to plan for clothes that have different sizing, but be sure to utilize size charts and use your best judgment. Don’t buy something that won’t fit because it’s the only size; it’s better to try your luck somewhere else.  

5. Familiarize yourself with return policies. 

  • If something happens where you don’t like the clothing or if it doesn’t fit, it’s important that you know how to return or exchange it. Nobody wants to keep something that doesn’t work for them. You can always donate or sell your clothing, but it’s often best to try to return the item so that you can get your money back or purchase the style or size you desire once you find it. Sometimes it’s hard to find return policies, and some companies have none. Just make sure to do your research!

6. Use coupons.

  • If you’re the type who often shops online, you might find that your bank account is being drained quickly. The best way to keep yourself from spending too much is to use coupons/cashback services. Honey and Ebates are some that I use. They find coupons for me and give me cash back on purchases respectably. Credit cards also do this too, depending on the card you have. This is a given that you will save money, and you don’t have to do too much work! Make sure to install Honey on your browser and connect Ebates to your bank and get to saving! 🙂