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 Andy Chau

Bored? Still need NEW things to do? Look no further!

  1. Watch the “Tiger King” docu-series on Netflix (if you haven’t already)! 

Tiger King documents the journey of Joe Exotic and his run-ins with an interconnected society of supposed “tiger conservationists.” You don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to watch it! 

  1. Reorganize your room.

Don’t go Marie Kondo mode and throw away everything! Only declutter what is necessary and take it slow to ensure you don’t throw away anything precious/valuable. If you need assistance, check this out: Abundantly Minimal

  1. Send a cheer card to a special patient!

The isolation occurring from shelter-in-place orders has significantly limited the amount of visitors allowed at hospitals. Why not send a positive note to a patient, especially to kids in need? 

Go to the link and send one now! Send a Cheer Card

  1. Learn what items can be composted. 

Apparently, there are 163 things and MORE you can compost on your own! *DISCLAIMER* PLEASE look into other ecological sources of sustainability. 

Follow the link to know more: 163 Things You Can Compost

  1. Watch the entire “Everything Before Us” series from Wong Fu Productions (cuz why not?) 

From cheesy lines to serious moments, Everything Before Us captures a society in which EQ gives advice for everything in your life from college admissions to securing a loan. Watch it now before it becomes offline again!

Everything Before Us | Chapter 1: Everything Before Us | Chapter 1

  1. Start becoming financially responsible.

It’s not too late to start your emergency funds or pay off your student loans! Whatever your financial situation may be, right now is the perfect time to trial and error your budget while planning for the long-term. Here is an article from Ally Banking to help with your budget planning: Savings by Age: How Much to Save in Your 20s, 30s, 40s, and Beyond

  1. Create art from magazines. 

Nowadays it seems as if art has become an underrated venue for expression. We have our photographers, but where are the painters, drawers, visual artists, and others? Well, you can become hip by collecting or reusing magazines. You can then clip the magazines and piece them together as some form of artwork. It is up to your imagination and creative drive. Give it a try and post it on your social media. 

  1. Volunteer for Be My Eyes

Seeking to satisfy your samaritinary desires? Want to volunteer but can’t do it in-person? Be My Eyes is an app that has you register as someone in need or someone who can help. As someone who can help, the app lets people in need call you for assistance amongst their everyday tasks. To learn more, Google search “Be My Eyes” and click on their official website. It’ll direct you to their About page and FAQs if needed. 

  1. Polish your resume. 

The job market for 2020 will be difficult to navigate. Luckily it won’t stay that way for more than a year and, regardless, this is the chance to be proactive. Being proactive can start with polishing your resume. If your resume is outdated, filled with unnecessary content, or is missing key descriptions, then go, go, go! 

  1. Take 10x More NAPS!!! 

Don’t feel like doing anything? Go ahead and take those naps. Rejuvenate yourself and try again. No one is stopping you except yourself!! 

When good friends Arya Rao and Kanav Kalucha were sent home early from Columbia University as a result of COVID-19, the computer science students knew they weren’t done putting their education to use quite yet. From their homes in Michigan and California, respectively, Rao and Kalucha noticed that many citizens in their hometowns – particularly the elderly – were already making masks to donate to frontline workers. With technology at their side, the two realized they had the skills to speed up the donation process, and just like that, the Mask Up initiative was born.

 

Co-founders Arya Rao and Kanav Kanucha

             What started as a two-person effort has now amassed over 100 volunteers to make and deliver masks to frontline workers. “There are a lot of organizations that have PPE shortages,” explains Rao, “and while this isn’t a substitute for that, we can reduce the risk for some of the people who are fighting this pandemic.” 

            Becoming a volunteer is simple. Go to the Mask Up website and enter your location, and how many masks you will be able to make. You will then be matched to the nearest healthcare organization. Additionally, essential services and organizations can request donations through the website as well. Since its inception, Mask Up has been able to provide masks to the New York National Guard, the Public Transit Unit of the North-Eastern United States, and dozens of hospitals and care homes. 

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Some of the masks that have been made and donated by volunteers. 

            Initially, it was a struggle to leverage the technological aspect. While younger generations are no strangers to social media, the majority of Mask Up volunteers are the elderly, who are less familiar with the world of technology. Rao quickly realized that while Facebook, Instagram, and a website would reach a younger demographic, the best way to spread the word is through good old-fashioned newspapers, and other local media outlets. “Lots of cold-emailing and cold-calling,” Rao recalls with a chuckle. 

            The Mask Up initiative will continue for as long as necessary. Until then, Rao explains that their only goal is “to continue to service the needs of the nation.”

            “This pandemic is really throwing all of us for a loop right now and I think the first thing we want to do is provide a little good and a little light in the world.”

 

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 Fiona Rose Beyerle

Even though you cannot physically pack up and travel right now, these films all provide incredible storytelling from different worldwide perspectives. The best part is that there are quite a few films to be discovered that offer compelling stories and perhaps a chance to practice a language you studied but have not practiced in a while. Without further ado, here is a short list of (not so popular) international films to enjoy! 

I Am Not a Witch (2017) 

Director: Rungano Nyoni 

Languages: English, Bemba, and Nyanja

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play 

Synopsis: Set in a local village in Zambia, a mysterious eight-year-old girl named Shula shows up and is accused of witchcraft.  She is soon found guilty and promptly placed in a witch camp.  

Why you should watch this film:  After watching this at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival, I have spent the past few years searching for it on the internet waiting for it to be released. This is a film that should be known.  Rungano Nyoni delivers this story with authenticity and moving symbolism that stays with you.

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(The official movie poster for I Am Not a Witch.)

The Way He Looks (2014) 

Director: Daniel Ribeiro 

Language: Brazilian Portuguese

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes

Synopsis:  A blind high school student named Leo longs for independence.  When a new student named Gabriel arrives, everyone instantly falls for him including Leo.    

Why you should watch this film: This is one of the cutest films!  You will fall in love with these sweet characters.  Another thing I love about this film is that it is not only a love story, but also focuses on friendship and working through the balancing act of friendships, jealousy, and new romances. 

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(The official poster for The Way He Looks, written in Portuguese.)

My Life as a Courgette (2016) 

Director: Claude Barras

Language: Swiss-French

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, and Netflix

Synopsis: Icare is sent to live in a foster home after a tragedy strikes. Icare informs the police officer he meets that he wants to be called “courgette” (meaning zucchini in French) since this is the nickname his mother gave him. Courgette befriends the other children and learns about their stories and problems as he works through his own. 

Why you should watch this film: Though this is an animated film, it is not for children. This film deals with tough conversations surrounding alcoholism, violence, sexuality, and other mature content. That being said, this film manages to balance sadness with sweetness.  What makes this film interesting is an accurate perspective of children dealing with these hardships. Oftentimes, I believe that films gloss over children dealing with grief by writing it off as a lack of understanding. This film chooses to dive into the depth of emotions the children feel as they struggle. 

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(The official poster for the film, written in French.)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011) 

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Language: Canadian French 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and iTunes 

Synopsis: Monsieur Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, steps up to fill the role of an elementary school teacher after a suicide occurs. Lazhar helps the students work through their loss as we simultaneously learn about his own tragedy before coming to Canada.  

Why you should watch this film:  If you are looking for a feel-good film, this is not your film.  If you are looking for a heart-wrenching yet incredible film, this is a must-watch.  Not only is the main character an amazing actor, but the children are also all wonderful in their roles. 

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(The official movie poster for Monsieur Lazhar.)

Thelma (2017) 

Director: Joachim Trier 

Language: Swedish, Norwegian 

Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google Play and Vudu

Synopsis: Thelma is a shy new student at the University of Oslo in Norway who begins to experience seizures which turn out to be part of her menacing supernatural powers. 

Why you should watch this film: If you like unusual artsy horror, this is the film for you.  It reminds me of the film Hereditary by Ari Aster in the way that it is unconventionally creepy and does not sacrifice the element of beauty in a film. This film is also part love story as Thelma falls in love with another student named Anja.  If the combination of all this in one film does not at least somewhat intrigue you, I do not know what will. 

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(The official movie poster for Thelma.)

Meditation, previously seen in the West as something more New Age than mainstream, has been around for thousands of years and is inherently the basis of most of the world’s faith systems. Meditation has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, especially in Western culture, as it has become increasingly connected with stress reduction and a boost in overall well-being. In a time of constant technological bombardment, reconnecting with space itself seems only wise. Add in the constant feelings of being stuck indoors and it makes sense to re-embrace the feelings long lost. 

However, there is no singular way to approach meditation, even if you are just coming into it for the first time. There is no right way to meditate. As an associate professor of religious studies Elaine Yuen, Ph.D. puts it, “The purpose of meditation is to bring a sense of calmness and awareness.” (1) As someone that practices meditation myself, let’s work through some of the basic components that will allow you to find peace in a time of Zoom calls and screen staring.  

Position/Movement 

What position do you find yourself most relaxed in? Are you the kind of person for whom a walk promotes your stress relief? Would you rather find yourself unmoving, cemented in place as the world moves around you? 

These questions do not need to be yes or no answers. For some it can be a mix, or it might depend on your mood on any given day. As long as you get into a mediation rhythm, position can vary. For me personally, I enjoy a walk to get away from the computer, and sitting meditation before bed.  

If you go with walking, where are you going to do it? Are you the kind of person for whom nature is the key to meditation, or are you someone who needs the power of a city to relax? For me here in New London, I love the Connecticut College Arboretum for some long weekend walking meditation. 

If you do choose to go the unmoving route, what position are you going to remain in? For some, cross-legged meditation is preferable, but others find that it can be straining on the joints. Laying down can be a valid option, as it lessens the stress on the body as a whole.  

A word of note, please do not feel guilty if in the process of meditation you happen to doze off. It happens to everyone, and perhaps it just means that your body needed just a bit more of a deep meditation.  

Indoors or Outdoors 

Where do you want to be when you commit to mediation? Is your home a comfortable space for you to exist and be in? Do you feel that you need to separate your mediation from your home? Do you have the ability to mediate outdoors safely? 

While nature for some provides the purest connection to the earth as a whole, others find the comfort of home to allow for the mind to feel at ease. For some, it may be an accessibility issue, living in a place where outdoor access may prove difficult. 

If meditating inside, I find it helpful to designate a space for it. Somewhere where your mind enters a meditative state when you enter the space. For me it’s the corner of my room, and I keep it clear so that my mind may also remain clear while within the space. 

Sound or Silence 

Do you find it hard to focus without something to focus on? Do you find relaxing moments in the purest of silence? What makes it possible for you to focus? 

For some, absolute silence is needed for their minds to come to a point of ease. Yet for others, something has to exist in the space for their mind to be at rest. Guided meditations are wonderful, and it sounds odd but certain voices work better for some than others. As a transwoman, I find that a woman’s voice puts me in a calmer place than a man’s, for instance. Everyone is different, and for some people, simple white noise or classical music provides enough of a focal point with which to focus from, no voice needed.  

The tougher the day for me, the more I find I need some sort of noise to occupy my mind. When walking, I like the sound of rain (over, of course, actually walking in the rain). For indoors, a fan running behind me will do nicely.  

Final Notes 

I am no expert, but these observations come from years of practice. Like anything, meditation just takes time. You just need to find your rhythm, and let yourself flow. There is no wrong way to do meditation, just as long as you are doing it.  

One piece of advice that has helped me immensely is that when you get those intrusive thoughts that come up, do not just ignore them. Like a dam, they will build up until it makes it impossible to focus on your breathing. Instead, acknowledge its presence, saying something to yourself like “I see you, thought, but I will come back to you later.” This simple act allows for your mind to return to a sense of ease, much like this rock as it balances, creating a lovely alcove. 

Remember, the key to meditating is just to do it. Let yourself find the way that works for you, and change if you feel like you need to. Let it be a place where you can just be you, and let your mind come to ease away from the world of technology that controls our every moment. Just breathe, and keep on going, whether that be for 15 minutes or an hour.  

  1. Melero, Angela. “This Trendy Meditative Practice Is Said To Help Combat Anxiety.” The Zoe Report. Accessed May 21, 2020. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/these-different-forms-of-meditation-take-both-fresh-traditional-approaches-on-ancient-practice-22888900. 

By Nicole Mattson

Normal People is a story worth knowing. Written in 2018 by Sally Rooney, it explores the tumultuous relationship between Marianne and Connell, two Irish students who go through high school and college together. After becoming a New York Times Best Seller, it became a television show on Hulu that premiered at the end of April. I first heard about it when it was featured in model Kaia Gerber’s Instagram Live book club, where actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (who are Marianne and Connell in the show, respectively) made an appearance to discuss the show. Both the book and the show are riveting and ultimately it is your preference whether or not you want to read it and visualize the story yourself, or watch how it is portrayed on the screen.

What is it about?

Marianne and Connell are two people who come from different backgrounds and have different social lives. Their story begins in 2011. In the town of Sligo, Ireland, their lives merge through their parents’ connection. The story starts off during the end of high school and goes until the end of college at Trinity College in Dublin. They have an on-again-off-again relationship throughout the book/show but they always remain friends. Readers and viewers can expect to see Marianne and Connell grow over time and how they adapt to each other despite their differences. 

The Book:

Reading the book went by quickly. It was difficult to put down since it was fun to read and easy to comprehend. Unlike the television series, the reader can experience the inner thoughts of Marianne and Connell, especially with their relationships with other people; Marianne has a terrible relationship with her older brother and mother, and Connell has a close relationship with his mother and a complicated relationship with his friends. It can also be easy to read over certain parts of the story that tie it together; for example, Marianne dealing with her aloof mother and talking about her father’s death is better experienced by seeing. However, reading can help experience events in the book in a creative way. Imagining what the lecture halls, apartments, and even parties are like can be fun, even if they end up being nothing like what the television show portrayed.

The Show:

The TV show showed how different perspectives can be. As a college student in the United States, it can be difficult to visualize both high school and college life in Ireland. For example, colleges in the U.S. are based around a central campus, and colleges in Ireland are more centered around the city. The buildings featured in the show were older than I expected and looked more classic, and the apartments were different than I could have imagined. Certain scenes provoked emotion that I otherwise would not have known by reading the book. When Marianne is talking with Connell at the coffee shop, the camera and background add power to their conversation, and seeing characters cry, as sad as it sounds, adds more emotion to the story and makes me think more deeply about the things happening in the show. Both actors, Daisy Edgar-Jones portraying Marianne and Paul Mescal portraying Connell, did a lovely job and it was better than I could ever imagine, since it felt so real. Not to mention that the show has great music choices throughout the episodes; I forgot about Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, along with music by Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Selena Gomez. I also discovered new music such as “Everything I Am is Yours” by Villagers, an indie Irish band. The combination of the cinematography, music, dramatic pauses, and actors transported me to a different story than I experienced reading the book. It felt so familiar yet so different at the same time.

So… which is better: the book or the television show?

Overall, it is your preference whether you want to read the book or watch the television series on Hulu. Both offer a beautiful story about friendship in different ways, but you will not be disappointed with either option. Throughout the last month in what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, Normal People has kept my mind off of what has been happening. If you want my opinion though? I would say the book was easier to get through, and perhaps it was because I read the book first and by the time I watched the television series, I already knew the story. This is not to say, however, that the show was bad; the cinematography in the show enhanced the characters and scenery and is a high-quality show. Sally Rooney is a talented author, and Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald are brilliant directors that brought the story to life.

by Lia Weinseiss

Are you looking for something to do while you’re baking, cleaning, working out, or laying around? Is learning from Zoom University not doing enough for you? Try a podcast! With this list ranging from news podcasts to celebrity interviews to everything in between, you’re sure to find something great for the next time you need to bake some banana bread. 

 1. Harry Potter at Home: Readings – Harry Potter the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone

If you read Harry Potter as a child, you’re reading it right now, or you have never read it, this podcast is for you. You can feel nostalgic while listening to the first Harry Potter book being read by notable names in the Harry Potter world such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and many more.

2. Secret Leaders by Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell

Learn about famous, successful people from the UK and US and their careers. This podcast gives listeners an inside look on just what it takes to make a successful entrepreneur. After listening, you’ll be able to take your banana bread hobby and turn it into your next business venture.  My personal favorite episode? Slack: How to Work Remotely and Stay Productive with Cal Henderson. 

3. Ologies with Alie Ward

Learn about different “ologies” from philematology (the science of kissing) to quantum ontology (the science of what is real) from special guests in this podcast. Hear Alie Ward ask scientists questions about topics you never knew you needed to know about. My recent favorite is Nasology (Taxidermy) with Allis Markham.

4. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! A Greek & Roman Mythology Podcast By Liv, Greek Mythology Geek

If you read Percy Jackson as a kid, or didn’t and are regretting it now, this podcast will inform you on everything myths—casually. Fuel your inner historian by listening to a contemporary take on Greek and Roman myths.

5. The Espresso Series By Honor Crean and Grace Volante

This is a podcast with everything you need from two students at the University of Edinburgh: original music recommendations, special guests with interesting untold stories to tell, news pieces and more.

6. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard interviews different famous names in pop culture, food, politics and more about their lives, with a personal twist that is innately human.

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(Source: Pexel)

7. Don’t Blame Me! By Meghan Rienks 

Youtuber and influencer Meghan Rienks takes calls and gives people advice. Listen to anything from dating advice to advice on navigating friendship from the perspective of someone who feels like a big sister.

8. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you haven’t heard of this podcast, now is the perfect time. Feel like you’re talking to friends while you hear about true crime stories you may not have heard of from two women who approach each story with a serious yet sarcastic twist.

TRIGGER WARNING: Deals with graphic stories of homicide and violence.

9. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil challenges society’s opinions of weight by speaking to influential people about their value—beyond what the scale says. Listen to interviews with people like Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein and hear about what they weigh.

10. The Daily by The New York Times

A daily podcast about important news stories of our time. Stay informed about both national and global news with a 20-50-minute clip including information from amazing journalists.

11. Pod Save America by Crooked Media

This podcast comes from President Obama’s former aides and features many journalists who give you an inside scoop of the news, tell you exactly what you need to know, and how to do something about it.

12. Dirty John by LA Times

Hosted by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Dirty John is a true crime podcast from 2017 about John Meehan’s marriage to Debra Newell and the abuse and manipulation which came from their relationship.

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of abuse, homicide, and violence.

by Eleanor Kelman

When I was younger, I was what adults would call a “voracious reader.” Not a day went by that I wasn’t buried in a novel. If I finished an assignment early, it was lunchtime or I simply had a free minute, I would pull my book of the week out of my backpack, flip to where one of my handmade bookmarks was slotted in between pages, and continue on in a little fantasy world by myself. I requested only Barnes & Noble gift cards from my family for Christmas and had a devoted bag just for my weekly library trips, which I would overfill with everything from manga to gossip rags to classic literature. I read anything and everything without discretion; I just wanted to read.

And one day, I didn’t.

I guess the decline was slow in hindsight, but by the time I was deep into high school it was evident: I just didn’t read anymore. I read what was required for class, but the passion wasn’t there and I had no motivation to pick up a book for pleasure at all. By the time I was in college, the only times I read a book outside of coursework were on long plane flights during which there were no real distractions. This brought the grand total of full novels I read for fun in about a seven-year stretch to something to the order of three. That’s how many I could have finished in a typical month as a child.

Every single new year brought forth that resolution to “read more” and each summer gave me a theoretical new wind to pick up and finish even just one book. And, of course, not a single declaration of “this is the day I become a reader again” actually came to fruition. It didn’t take long for me to become jaded despite still hoping I would one day be able to find my passion for reading again.

I was not shocked that I once again found an opportunity to read when I was kicked off of my college campus and quarantined within my home. But even that dream was quickly squashed when I found out that all local libraries were closed for the foreseeable future. I do have plenty of books at home, but my most prized ones I had already read (two of the novels I’ve read four times each) or hadn’t considered starting because they just didn’t pique my interest that much. While I did pick up a science fiction novel from my shelf, it only took about a chapter for me to realize I was not interested in the bland setting and unrelated storylines of multiple characters (I’ve always disliked that writing style). I relegated myself to yet another half-hearted attempt at becoming a reader that went nowhere.

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[A snippet of my personal bookshelf, er, bookfloor]

The thing was, I still really, really wanted to read. I mean, it wasn’t like I had much else to keep me busy! My hectic schedule, from classes to multiple clubs to constantly seeing friends up on campus had come to a screeching halt; I had exponentially more downtime now than I had had in years. Fumbling around on the internet eventually led me to a way to access e-books through the library cards I already had (one for my local library at home and another for the one closest to my university), and once I downloaded that app I only had one final excuse left to not start reading. I still could just forget to get around to it, no?

Once the semester ended and I was officially done with classes, the website I had used for the past four years of college to track homework assignments had lost its purpose. This actually disheartened me a surprisingly good amount, as I had become weirdly attached to it after it practically single-handedly saved me from failing every class I took. I was so fond of this website that I decided against unceremoniously giving it up, and swapped the course subjects for categories of things I’d need to do that summer and didn’t include class periods. One such thing I added was a way to track my reading, something I’d previously used it for to track the chapters professors had assigned weekly. Now that I had nullified that excuse, I had to read.

Okay, I’m not going to pretend I dove headfirst into hundreds of novels and can now say that I’ve polished off half of the Library of Congress. However, I did actually start successfully reading for fun, which is a much less lofty and much more vague goal but a goal I finally achieved nonetheless. I finally have flipped the final page of Thomas Cullinan’s The Beguiled, which wasn’t my favorite in the end, but what it represented was so much more than just a mediocre Civil War-era thriller novel. I’ve moved my e-book endeavors on to two books at once: John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, a book that has been on my radar since I became engrossed in a podcast about the white collar crimes of Elizabeth Holmes and her company Theranos, as well as Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, which has a forthcoming adaptation in the second season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.

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[The porch has quickly become my favorite place to engross myself in a book]

It’s not even about the quality of these books per se but rather about how they show me how I’m maturing. I feel better when I’m reading, sort of like one of those “self care queens” on YouTube. They give me a jolt of “wellness,” and some feel-good nostalgia. Reading brings me back to a simpler, less chaotic time when I didn’t have any adult fears and anxieties looming over my head. They remind me of a childhood when I did something for no reason other than truly enjoying the escape. And when I finished one book, the only worry on my mind was to pick which one to read next.

 

By Sophie Phillips

It’s in times like these when it’s easy to feel powerless; you feel like you can’t impact a single person—much less the world. Although it’s nothing short of commendable that people are rallying together and sharing their wealth with those who need it, it’s not always feasible for people to donate their money in the midst of an economic crisis that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. However, just because you can’t or won’t donate money, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do your part to make your community (and maybe even the world) a better place. Below are some ways that you can better those around you, both near and far, without spending a dime:

  1. The first way that you can make an impact and serve others is by volunteering with organizations virtually. During a global pandemic, it’s organizations like the UN or the Crisis Text Line who work directly with people to get them the help that they need. Below are some incredible volunteer opportunities at varying commitment levels, so that you can find one that suits your schedule and your interests:
  • Words of Thanks is an organization, created by high school sophomore Hansuja Chaurasia, that assigns you a hospital that you’ll write a letter to (it can be handwritten, a picture, or digital, depending on the hospital’s policy)
  • Are you a history buff? If so, Smithsonian Digital Volunteers might be for you. Volunteering here gives you the chance to transcribe historical documents, and they have a list of ongoing transcription projects here.
  • Do you find yourself unsure of how you would like to contribute to an organization? The UN has twelve broad categories where you can volunteer. From translation to art design to outreach and advocacy, you really can’t go wrong (and not to mention, it doesn’t look too shabby on a resume…)
  • If you’re looking for a bigger commitment and you’re a good listener, then volunteering for the Crisis Text Line is an excellent way to give back. Volunteers working for the Crisis Text Line move texters from a state of crisis to a state of calm, and have the ability to save lives (literally), and go through rigorous and free training so they’re able to do so. Although it’s a 200-hour commitment for at least four hours a week, many say it’s well worth the timejust be sure that you’re able to be in a good place mentally before doing this type of work!
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2. If volunteering is not your thing and you feel really passionately about certain causes (such as food insecurity, poverty, sustainability, etc.) or organizations, speak out and share your support on social media, especially with organizations that aren’t as well known. Although money is power, clout is too. The more shares, likes, and follows a page gets on social media the more influential that they become, and the more able they are to make a change in the world. 

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  • If writing has always been your thing, another wonderful way that you can spread the word about awesome organizations or important causes is to write for Beyond the Pandemic! We are constantly looking for articles that make an impact, so if you would like to either write once or on an ongoing basis, consult this document, and get typing!

3. Lastly, sometimes the most impactful things that you can do are the most simple. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the grand gestures that people can do to change the world, but sometimes, it’s significantly more effective to lift up those around you, whether it’s by doing random acts of kindness, being there when someone needs you, or simply being kind to everyone you meet. Below, you’ll find some ideas for random acts of kindness that you can do for anyone, whether it’s your closest friend or family member, or a random person on the street:

  • Text, call, email, and check up on those around youespecially when it’s not expected. Make an extra effort to ask about their days, or how they’re doing; you never know when someone needs a loving friend or family member.
  • If you’re living with someone and have the time, do extra chores around the house to make their life a little easier. You don’t have to clean the whole house, but a little vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and even bed-making goes a long way.
  • If you like to cook, make your best dish for an elderly family member, or even cook for a neighbor or someone close by if nobody is around you! At this time, it’s all too easy to feel down, and there’s no greater show of carein my humble opinionthan making delicious home-cooked food with a lot of love (and good seasoning).
  • Give yours, a friend’s or a neighbor’s dog a nice walk. Due to stay-at-home measures, it’s difficult for some to take their furry friend on a stroll, and for any dog owners out there, you know that your fur baby can get antsy if there is no walk waiting for them. However, a word of caution: bring a mask/bandana/scarf and sanitizing equipment with you. Even if you’re outside, this is a scary time for many people, and it’s not only to prevent them from catching your germs, but also for their peace of mind as well. Also, sanitizing the leash or any other equipment that you bring with you is a good idea.
white and black border collie puppy walk beside person in track pants
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  • Simply being kind to those around you is in itself the ultimate act of kindness. There is so much value in being someone who cares about others and is polite and considerate to everyone whom they meet. People severely underestimate the power of a kind word or a person with good energy to them to brighten up the space around them. Even if you’re on the shyer or more serious side, you can most certainly be that person too.

Being in a pandemic is hard enough for everyone as it is, but if you take the time to think of others and give back when you can, you can make your home planet a little brighter. If you’re feeling alone or helpless at the disposal of SARS-CoV-2, please know that you’re not alone. No matter where you come from, there are so many others who are feeling the exact same things as you. Although it is crucial to recognize the role that inequality plays in outcomes during the pandemic (adequate testing, affordable healthcare, access to healthy food and safe spaces to exercise, where and with whom you’re quarantining) and to advocate for those who need it, it is important nowmore than everto be united with one another in the common goal of not only eradicating the virus, but staying sane,(relatively) happy, healthy, and kind during and after the process.