You watch the clock on your computer screen as it hits 10:10 and awkwardly unmute yourself to say a thank you to your professor and wave goodbye to your classmates before leaving the Zoom call. You have 10 minutes of free time before your next class starts and it feels like there’s nothing you can do besides getting sucked into the black hole that is TikTok, aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, or liking Twitter threads because the like button has a different animation.
Screen time is at an all-time high. Your eyes are glued to a screen all day, so scrolling on your phone might just make your Zoom fatigue worse. Here are 10 alternatives you could be doing within your small, but well deserved, increments of free time.
Make a Snack:
Time can seem to fly by throughout the day while doing homework, so making a quick snack might be the only way to hold yourself over before sitting down and eating dinner. Here are a few quick snacks that you can whip up before rushing to your Zoom class.
Sometimes a boost in serotonin levels is needed when going to classes and studying for hours throughout the day. You could create a personalized playlist in between small breaks with songs that give off happy or chill “vibes” to act as a reward system once you’re done for the day, or simply listen to playlists that you have already curated.
The University of Portland has thrown together an “Ambient Study” playlist to help with students’ study stresses that’s worth a listen on Spotify.
Register to Vote:
Are you 18 and itching to make a difference? Then you are in luck because there is an election coming up! This year, social media apps have made an effort to make registering to vote easier than ever like. Instagram has curated special links within story posts and Snapchat gave users a direct link to the registration site within their own profile information.
You can check your registration status in just a couple seconds. If you find that you’re not registered, find a registration form for your state here. Remember to request an Absentee ballot if you want to vote in your home state, and be prepared to mail early this year.
Channel Your Inner Art Major:
A good way to de-stress is to let out some creativity. Doodling can be a great way to let your mind go blank for 10 minutes. Try releasing your inner stress on a piece of paper by letting your pen take control. After you’re done you can either crumple the paper and throw it away or hang it on your fridge to say, “I got through that.”
There are adult coloring books that you can purchase and decide whether or not you want to stay in the lines, or go crazy as you would on a restaurant’s kids menu when you were younger. Some are made up of pictures, intricate mandalas, or have a color by number situation if you want to make sure your color palette is cohesive. Voilà! By the end, you have a beautiful picture that you can mail to your friends and family to let them know you’re still taking time for yourself.
If you aren’t too keen on wasting paper then take up digital design with the help of ProCreate (only compatible with IOS devices). Explore how digital drawing might be easier to a beginning artist with access to different mediums. On ProCreate, you are able to choose from any medium you can think of, including spray paint, chalk, or even a calligraphy set if you want to take a stab at creating your own inspirational quotes.
Sometimes having a clean and organized workspace will clear your mind and help you focus on the task at hand. Utilize the free time you have during your breaks to look around and see what can be picked up, thrown away, or organized.
If you apply this to your whole room throughout the day, you could end up with a relaxed and calm space for you to return to after you hang up on your last Zoom call of the day.
Feeling overwhelmed by assignments that are lined up for the week can be difficult to manage. However, by doing minuscule things to help you organize your day during your breaks will help you feel like you have taken control of the chaos. Examples include the following.
Check your planner for assignments that are due that day and create a mini to-do list. If you want to look at a slightly bigger picture, you could figure out what assignments are due for the week as well. It might even help to write in what you need to get done for the following week within a notes section in your planner or on a separate sticky note that is easily visible within your workspace.
Make sure that your class schedule is not only written down in your planner but put into your phone's calendar as well, that way notifications are sent directly to your phone when assignments are due and when class is scheduled as well.
If class meeting times are live discussion-based lectures, go over your notes and understand what questions need to be asked about textbook topics or threads within supplemental readings professors might assign.
Daily routines today look very different in comparison to previous years. Everyone is collectively experiencing circumstances that were thought to only happen in movies. Check-ins with friends and family are limited due to the lack of contact with others. Because of this, it’s important to check-in with yourself and care for your emotional and psychological needs.
Writing can help strengthen your emotional functions by paying attention to your inner needs and desires. It’s a way to help create your own sense of self and identity that can be hard to do when you’re struggling with imposter syndrome.
Journaling is a good way to let your thoughts pour out on paper instead of cluttering your mind with things you don’t necessarily need to focus on at the moment. It’s a way to help you reflect and unpack what your day is like and what you need to be doing to fulfill your own needs.
Venture Into a Different Reality:
Turning into an adult often means you are focusing on your own new reality as to what your life is like in the present and what it will be in the future. To help relieve the pressure of always planning your future, pick up a book, and experience a new perspective whether it’s a narrative about the past, apocalyptic future, parallel universe or crime-ridden town.
Take a look at what professors enjoy to read in the four-part series, Professors Favorite Reads, to help break up the textbook and supplemental readings you’ve been assigned or check out the young adult fiction reads that Good Reads lists. Here are the top five.
Setting aside time to help you decompress and let your mind and eyes relax can be done through mantra meditation. This type of meditation can boost awareness and improve concentration and is easier for beginners who may have trouble getting in the right state of mind. If this type isn’t working for you there are five other styles of meditation that might resonate with you better.
Mindfulness - Paying attention to your thoughts
Spiritual - Tuning to silence and finding a deeper connection with your God or the Universe
Focus - Concentrating using one of your five senses
Movement - Using gentle action to guide you through your mediation
Transcendental - Using a phrase or series of words that are specific to you
If you are wondering about apps that could help jumpstart your path to a healthier state of mind, Self magazine suggests nine free meditation apps.
Getting active doesn’t necessarily mean to pump out an intense 10-minute workout routine right before class, but can be anything from standing up and stretching to simply walking around your house.
Try to focus on one area of your body that has been aching from sitting at a desk all day. The three main areas you want to focus on are your neck, back and shoulders.
Getting back to reality:
Once your phone timer goes off signaling the beginning of your class at “Zoom University”, hopefully, you feel more rested and rejuvenated than you did when your break began. Your mind and eyes will thank you later for the much-needed break. With demanding classes and workloads piling up, it can feel like you have no time for yourself, but don’t worry, there are tools to help, and you are not alone.
Brienna Haro is a Reporter for The Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org