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.

 

 

With the rise of COVID-19 over the past few months, ‘free time’ has become less of a rare occurrence. Many people have been laid off from their jobs or required to work from home, students have switched to online classes, and social events and gatherings have disappeared. With all of these changes, many people, including myself, have found that they now have more time on their hands to devote to their hobbies and other activities that would usually be pushed to the side. However, with this added amount of ‘free time’ comes a nagging pressure to be productive and to make use of the ‘free time’ that we now have available.

When scouring social media, I often see posts about how quarantine has provided people with the opportunity to write the book they’ve always dreamed of, to take an abundance of spring and summer classes, or to start a business. Even after studying all day, I still hear this voice in my head telling me that I shouldn’t spend the evening relaxing. Instead, I should be putting this time to good use and be productive. While these ideas of ambition and constant productivity can be lovely, they are not required. This is not to say that a person cannot aim to be productive or achieve goals during this time, because I am fully guilty of that. It is just to say that there should not be such high pressure to do so. Using this time in quarantine to better yourself or to achieve any number of things is great, however, you are not a failure if you choose to spend your time relaxing, binge-watching Netflix, or taking a lot of naps.

The truth is there is no right way to spend your time during a global pandemic. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty and can be a source of stress for many people. Mental health is an area that many individuals struggle with and a pandemic, coupled with isolation, can cause people to spiral into a depression. As such, reinforcing the idea that people must be productive or else they have failed or ‘wasted their time’ in quarantine can be dangerous, harmful, and unhelpful, especially to people who are struggling with their mental health. A pandemic is a scary time and people are allowed to use their time as they see fit.

I can definitely understand the appeal for productivity in a time such as this. Many individuals attend school full-time or work a 40 hour/week job, which results in little time for projects, creativity, and goals outside of work or school. However, while many people may not have time for such endeavors in their normal lives, they may also not have time for relaxing and enjoying a time with fewer obligations. There is no shame in using this time to just hang out and exist. Your time does not need to be constantly used for production. Productivity can be great, it can be rewarding, and it can be a great cure for boredom, so long as you keep in mind that you are not a failure for relaxing and focusing on yourself as much as you need. 

Photo Credit: 

trendingtopics <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/146269332@N03/49119584972″>#productivity (Trending Twitter Topics from 25.11.2019)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/“>(license)</a>

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By Catherine Duffy

Throughout my life, I had never been that into fitness. I grew up dancing five days a week, so staying active had never been something I had to worry about. However, things changed when I started university. As much as I want to deny the existence of the “Freshman fifteen” I did start to notice a few extra pounds on my body as my lifestyle changed. I accepted the change and put a lot of pressure on my weekly yoga class to keep me fit!

I began working out in my third year of university. Between societal pressure to look a certain way, and the $100 I paid for the campus gym, I figured a few visits a week to the campus fitness centre definitely wouldn’t do any harm! I made at least two appearances at the gym every week, heading straight for the cardio machines to make sure I burned as many calories as I could. I didn’t focus on strength training, as I had no idea where to start, and feared the many judgmental eyes around the gym. 

I continued going to the gym over the summer paying a reasonable monthly sum at the local “Fit 4 Less.” Again, I would constantly head to the elliptical feeling more and more satisfied as the number of calories I burned increased on the equipment’s screen.

In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen in Canada, the university gym quickly informed students that it would be closing its doors. My heart sank as I got the email sharing the news. Where would all of my pent up energy go? I had gotten into a really good habit of going at least twice a week. What would I do to stay fit now?

While the first two weeks of quarantine resulted in my adopting the lifestyle of a sloth, I knew that I couldn’t stay healthy continuing such a routine. I began taking daily walks around my neighborhood. The fresh air made me feel much better and my Fitbit vibrated with joy as it noticed my movements! Feeling frustrated with my 10,000 steps a day goal that now seemed impossible to meet in light of the new situation, I changed the settings on my Fitbit so that my goal would be 5000 steps every day. The goal felt more attainable, and consequently, I felt motivated to reach it every day knowing it was something I could do with just a half hour walk.

Since the gym was no longer an option, I decided to open my own little fitness studio in my room! Though the only equipment I had was a yoga mat, I found the Internet had many exercises I could do with just that. I began to do an ab workout daily alternating between arm workouts and leg exercises to go along with it.

I found a Youtuber online named Pamela Reif who demonstrates exercises clearly and has many videos designed for beginners. She offers daily workout plans for those seeking a bit more structure and provides some innovative ideas for those with no equipment at home. No free weights lying around in your basement? No problem! She suggests water bottles as a replacement.

Paula Reif’s Youtube workout video. Photo courtesy of Catherine Duffy.

After two weeks of committing to exercise every day, not only did I feel healthier, I already felt stronger. Core strength had never been a focus of mine, but in the privacy of my own room, I felt comfortable struggling to do a simple ten rep exercise until I became a pro. Putting an hour aside every day also made me feel less lazy, and when I did put time aside for TV, I knew that I had at least been active for some time throughout the day.

The pandemic has taught me that I don’t need to invest in a gym membership to stay fit. The internet is filled with free fitness videos, and with enough discipline, you can combine daily walks and strength training at home to stay in shape! It’s so much easier to squeeze a ten-minute ab workout at home than to make your way to the gym. Instead of finding two times a week, in my formerly busy schedule to go to the university gym, I’ve found a way to incorporate a little bit of fitness in my everyday life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that staying active in order to feel healthy is much more important than exercise with the sole goal of losing weight. This pandemic has given me the chance to make a lifestyle change that has been feeling better about myself and my daily routines.

By Colleen Boken

Throughout my time in college history and art history courses, I wondered after reading diaries, newspaper articles and other primary source materials, how would our current system of information gathering, with a massive amount of social media, a political climate unlike what has been seen before, and a radical changing of faith, would cope with an event of such significant magnitude.  

One might argue that we already know, given that in 2001, an event that rattled the United States as a whole changed the very fabric of how we travel. Yet, 9/11 was now almost 19 years ago, in an age when Macs looked like this (and they STILL HAD A CD PLAYER)!

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(Image via Wikipedia by Marcin Wichary)

Also, Facebook was still 3 years before launch, in a time before MySpace was even created. 9/11 was also a distinctly American event. Sure, security around the world changed, but no other country remembers 9/11 in the same way. Even people outside of New York, Pennsylvania, or DC remember it best because of the news coverage. Lastly, let’s not forget that kids right out of college now, born in 1996, barely remember, if at all, the event as a whole. Our entire student body is full of individuals who will now remember the COVID-19 quarantine as the defining historical event of their youth. It’s sufficient to say that the world this generation is entering into is not necessarily one of war, but one of health and politics.  

One must ask then; how will the historians of the future remember the events of the present? Admittedly, it is difficult to determine as history is not about predicting the future but instead making sense of the past. However, by applying a lens to our current situation, perhaps we can make some sense as to our present. 

Information is key to understanding any situation. The main issue of the past is that few people left remarks behind, and photo evidence can often leave us wanting more. Many people existed without leaving more than a passing note in a census of their very existence. We can only determine how things were by what was left by those individuals. In many of these cases, only the very wealthy were able to leave records that we could look back upon. 

Yet with the rise of social media, and sites such as the Wayback Machine, archives are becoming flooded with the digital realm. Take, for example, my Instagram. Over the course of the five years I’ve had my Instagram, I’ve posted at least 1,654 photos. Many of the places I’ve taken pictures of likely had never been preserved in such a way, such as this view of a nearly empty toilet paper aisle at the start of quarantine. Before the age of rapid digital photography and social media, images such as these would have no real purpose to exist. Now people can share images like this with the world. 

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(Photo by author in New London, CT)

It is not just in our Instagram posts either. Take this blog as a whole for example. In a way, it will serve as a sort of archive for future readers. What are seen as current thoughts and perspectives now will become primary/secondary sources in years to come. With a wide variety of authors and locations represented, Beyond the Pandemic will become a resource for future generations.  

Now, some argue that you cannot cite blog posts as “source material,” and that is true to an extent. A blog by anyone on the civil war may not carry much validity, but a blog written about the current situation by a witness? One has to make the argument that a blog in the latter case will serve to break the boundary, as it is not someone reading Wikipedia and writing about what they learned, but it is a witness describing their thoughts, sights, and overall notes on the situation as a whole.  

Lastly, this is a worldwide event. Unlike 9/11, which was largely focused on America, COVID-19 has spread, both literally and figuratively, across the globe, affecting nearly every country in different ways (some have not “reported” any cases). We all share in this lockdown, and the artists/writers are hard at work making sure we remember this event in every country. Archives are already starting to gather materials from this event, our digital memories preserved.  

So how will we remember COVID-19 after all of this? Will we remember the quarantine most or the political discussions more? What kind of world will exist after this, and how might it affect the way we live our daily lives? These are questions that nobody has the answers to, and will not for some time to come. As I sit here with the cat wondering why I have not left the apartment in a while, I can only speculate as we enter another week of quarantine. 

 

 

By Jay Abdella

When gyms are closed and working out with your friends is not an option, what do you do? For myself and other students at my university, twice a week, we are treated to Zoom Yoga by my friend Melanie Adams. Adams, a certified instructor-led a power hour yoga class every Monday while school was still in session. Melanie’s goal is, “to provide yoga to other people in a high quality and accessible way.” Her classes are often the first time a student is exposed to a structured yoga regiment. For those who do not have access to a structured fitness program, yoga is a great way to dip your toe into exercising.  

Many college students are drawn to yoga because of its accessibility and lack of equipment. Many people equate exercising with using big fancy machines or running for miles on end. With yoga, all you need is yourself and a small amount of space around you. Due to this, yoga is a highly accessible recreational and athletic option for many students and adults!

 Melanie’s classes allow students both new and old to stretch out, relax, and become one with the universe. As someone who flexibility is close to zero, having a chance to stretch out each week was a great weight off my shoulders. In addition to taking the weight off my shoulders,yoga has strengthened both my muscles and my endurance, traits that are important for my primary sport; Karate.. For those still in school, yoga has benefits between different athletic fields. For instance yoga promotes flexibility in your muscles which are beneficial to those who are involved in projectile sports such as throwing basketballs, baseballs or any sort of flying object.

Melanie Adams’ class poses for a picture before class lets out for Spring Break. Adams (Front and center) has been leading classes at Clark University since September. (Photo Credits to Melanie Adams)

Adams began her yoga journey, taking her first yoga class in high school. It was there where she found herself connecting with her teacher Casey on a deep level. [add some description]“My teacher, her name was Casey and I have been practicing with her for almost five years now. She has really inspired me over the years through her teachings and having a relationship with her,” said Adams. Through her relationship with her teacher, Adams began to think about her future in yoga. The summer before Freshman year, she found herself hunting for opportunities for certification. Eventually, after surfing the web, Melanie took the biggest leap of her life so far; investing $3,000 of her own money into becoming certified as a yoga instructor. 200 hours of yoga training later, Adams walks out with her own certification to teach.

When students received the notice that Clark University was moving online and all athletic programming was being suspended, Melanie sensed a problem. Many students that attended her class throughout the school year had no access to yoga from home. In addition, she was concerned that the connections she had made with her yoga students throughout the year would fade away “I had certain student relationships with the people who came to my classes every week, and I was worried about when school was closed having those relationships put on hold, so I started teaching the classes on zoom so that I could still have a weekly connection and still be a part of those peoples wellness routines even though it is in a much different way,” said Adams

Now, Melanie hosts yoga sessions twice a week for students who are interested in continuing their weekly stretch-out. On Mondays, it’s Happy Hour Flow (Destressing), and on Wednesdays, it’s Rest and Restore (Finding Your Inner Self). 

As she has transitioned to online yoga, Adams has found that it helps her keep a connection to those who have attended her classes in the past. While zoom powers this connection, online classes only go so far. Adams laments that some participants have their cameras and microphones muted so that she can’t make sure they are properly following along. She also has found that she can’t be as emotionally invested in her classes as she was back in school. 

“I feel like I can’t get as emotionally themed in my classes because I don’t know whether people have a place to work it out after class is over. I have to find the balance between talking about real issues and knowing it could trigger someone to have a worse experience after class and not being able to help,” said Adams

Adams leads a free yoga class near her home in Massachusetts. (Photo credits to Melanie Adams)
For now, as we all sit in isolation, at least for a few days a week, we can stretch out, relax, and pretend that the entire world isn’t falling to pieces around us. If you are interested in joining Melanie’s class, it is every Monday at 5 pm Eastern Standard Time and Wednesdays at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time. For those who want to get their stretch on, here is the link to the classes! Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/9697543823 and the access code for the room is  969-754-3823.

By Mia Foster

A rubber band on a glass to mark whose glass it is.

     The concept of a wine-marker is quite logical; as all glasses look the same, a person puts an attachment on their glass so they know which one is theirs when they put it down. I have taken to applying this principle to water glasses. In my family and many other families, all our water glasses look the same. This leads to an excessive number of glasses in the dishwasher since no one remembers which belonged to them, so they grab a new glass from the cabinet instead of continuing to use the same one. Some may also grab a random used glass, not knowing who drank from it previously, and use that. In a global pandemic, that is incredibly unsafe. By simply making your glass identifiable, you can reduce the number of dishes you have to wash and the spread of germs within your family. I guess you could say it’s killing two birds with one stone (my mom would say petting two bunnies with one hand because the other saying makes her sad). 

Marking your glass is extremely simple- grab a rubber band and place it around your glass. It is of no cost to you! I will use my glass for a week or so before washing it- you can choose how long you go, but since it’s just water, you can reuse it for at least a few days. This is a very simple way to reduce your dishwasher use, saving water, electricity, and time!

COVID-19 has had disastrous impacts on college students’ mental health. Students now must figure out the next five months of their lives as colleges have forced people to return home or stay in one place. For many people, just being isolated can exacerbate anxiety and depression. For myself, I handle my anxiety by talking to and helping other people with their own mental health struggles. One of my favorite things to do to help people is, simply, to hug them. Whenever I hug someone, I imagine hugging out the negativity and self-doubt of my friends and absorbing those emotions into myself. Like kidneys filtering out blood, I like to think I can filter out my friend’s negative emotions without weighing myself down. Sadly, with COVID-19 forcing everyone to isolate, hugs are impossible. Now, whenever I see a post from a friend who is having a bad day, my heart aches for them as I want to hug the sadness out of them. All I can do is message them and let them know I am here for them. Texting them, unfortunately, only does so much. Words help, but the act of hugging goes so much further, especially when it takes days for people to answer. Without being with my friends in person, I feel powerless to help my friends, and through that my anxiety is slowly edging back to my periphery. While I feel this, I have found a new way to help other people through text.

One thing that I found to be helpful during this time is to reach out to those who are younger than us. I have reached out to people I know who are still in high school who are probably just as terrified of their future as we are. High school seniors who have worked for three and a half years and have made it to the fabled Senior Spring, only to have it ripped away from them two and a half months before they would be finished. At my high school, the seniors would perform a show during senior spring, all run and produced by the students themselves. As of now, the show is postponed until late May, but at this point, it is a major possibility that students will not go back to school this year. The implications of that are massive. No walking across the stage at graduation, no saying goodbye to your teachers, no smoking cigars with friends after graduating, nothing. To come all this way and not being able to be rewarded for your success is nothing short of heartbreaking. While we are mourning the loss of our spring semesters and time that we could be spending with our friends, seniors have lost their final hurrah of high school (I’m not forgetting college seniors either, you guys deserve everything too), and they need someone who will comfort them in their time of need.

-My friend and I during a highlight of senior spring: The Senior Cruise

By being a figure in these people’s lives, either older or younger, it provides meaning in our lives despite us not being there in person. For myself, in addition to staying in touch with my college friends, I had a long talk with a camp co-worker until five in the morning. While I did not interact with her as much in high school or at camp, it felt good to be able to talk and be hopeful towards the future. While COVID-19 has changed the dynamics of how friends can help friends, you can always get in touch with those who are younger than you. If you do, you might find yourself making a difference in their lives! 

I have a distaste for the smell of spring. 

I know there was a time when it was different, and I cling to these memories with all my might. Wearing wind pants and blue rubber boots and sloshing about in the puddles that overtook the path behind my childhood home. Marveling at the consistency of mud, how there was truly no color so pure as it. Even in my older years, driving with the windows down just enough to offset the endless winter I was accustomed to, but not so far that a passing car would accidentally splash my interior. 

The springs of my adulthood have been far less magical. In March 2019, shortly before I turned 20, I was more depressed than I had ever been in my life (which seemed to be a record I broke every year). I don’t remember why, and perhaps it’s because I’ve simply chosen to forget. But I’ll never forget how I felt. Every step felt like a marathon. The inside of my head was blurry, I didn’t eat, and I cried nearly every day. Tasks like getting off of my couch for a cup of tea felt insurmountable, so I finally stopped trying. There were, of course, the terrible thoughts and breakdowns that come with all bouts of mental health problems, but I had never felt so physically ill before. 

I got bloodwork done, desperate for an answer. A nurse called me a few days later. By this point, I was completely bedridden and had long since called in sick to work. I answered the phone from my daze, not bothering to sit up. 

“Did you know you have mono,” the nurse asked after the exchange of pleasantries. In spite of myself, I laughed, relieved to have a reason for my misery beyond my usual mental health problems. 

For the remainder of the school year, I practically lived on my couch. I would interval studying for finals and taking naps. I begged my boyfriend to get tested, but he refused. My antagonizing roommate would not even bring me a glass of water on the days I was too dizzy to walk down the stairs. I had never been so miserable in my life. The only things that had managed to bring me some sort of comfort were cracking a window to breathe in the fresh spring air, which once brought me so much solace, and drinking cups of tea to replace most meals. 

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One year later, everything is exactly the opposite. 

It was a winter of change; I broke up with my boyfriend and my mood improved immensely. I live with three roommates, all of whom I love, in a beautiful house that we rent. My writing is being published more than ever (frequently), and I am finally being paid. I secured a coveted summer internship. I am excelling in my classes. 

And then I don’t get sick, but the rest of the world does. 

In February, I will admit that I was part of the group of people who wondered if the mass panic around COVID-19 was being blown out of proportion. At this time, Canadian cases were sparse. I wasn’t vocal about my bewilderment, but I did silently resent that I couldn’t use my to-go cups at coffee shops and that my upcoming work event might be canceled. 

Within weeks, I didn’t have a job. I canceled my upcoming trip to Europe that I had spent months saving for. My parents weren’t allowed to leave Saskatchewan to come see me in Alberta. I wasn’t allowed to go five blocks over to see my baby cousin. 

I now know that the mass panic was not blown out of proportion. I wash my hands whenever I touch something new. I bleach every surface of our house relentlessly and only leave for the essentials. I am one of the millions of Canadians who have applied for Employment Insurance (EI). I am trying to make the best of it, but the world remains so uncertain. This is not how I imagined my twenties. 

I know I am fortunate in many ways, but in times of loneliness, I can’t help but mourn not what I lost, but what was just within reach. And as a snowy Alberta winter melts away, I am once more trapped inside my house, with only the smell of tea and a hesitant spring to tether me to reality.