You know how when you were a kid, every time you had a headache or felt mildly unwell, your mother would tell you it was because you ‘spend too much time on that damn phone’? And you would inevitably roll your eyes because of COURSE the amount of screen time you were consuming had absolutely nothing to do with your physical discomfort? I hate to say it but – she may have been right.
Taking 18 units of STEM-related (for the most part) classes over Zoom is, quite frankly, exhausting. My roommate and I have devised an unspoken routine whereby after our respective days (of classes at least – we mustn’t forget Zoom club meetings and virtual social events that take up some evenings) are over, we both face plant onto our beds in solidarity to express how exhausted we are. I never thought the day would come where I wouldn’t want to unwind by watching TV or some Youtube on my laptop, but after five straight hours of chemical engineering class (yay Tuesdays and Thursdays!) more time on my laptop sounds incredibly unappealing.
That being said, Zoom fatigue has pushed me to find more creative ways to unwind after my classes and before I inevitably have to face more screen time to complete homework, projects, and readings. Some things that have worked really well for me include:
My roommate and I trade off cooking dinner after our classes on weekdays, and usually time it so that one person cooks when the other person has later classes or more time-intensive post-class Zoom meetings. While this can sometimes take up a significant chunk of time (did I spend two hours this Wednesday cooking pasta instead of doing my homework? No one will ever know), for me it has been one of the most effective ways of destressing. Pair with a fun podcast or a sing-a-long soundtrack and it is a surefire mood lifter after a long day of staring at faces and calculations on a Zoom screen.
While you’d imagine that doing any sort of physical activity post classes would just be more tiring, I’ve found that yoga in specific tends to rejuvenate me and leave me feeling calmer, more centred, and ready to tackle what I sometimes like to call the ‘second half’ of my day (even if it does start at after 6 pm). If you are a yoga non-believer (I can’t imagine WHY), a more strenuous quarantine-safe version could be to go for a run or, my personal favorite: to do some at home Pilates!
A Singing Party
Not an actual party. Please do not hold any actual parties. But in line with the cooking soundtrack, a good 15-20 minutes of singing along to some fun tunes can do wonders for your mood. Hint: if you dance while singing you’ll probably also feel less lethargic and be wide awake to tackle all your work!
Face Time a Friend
Rather than being a stressful, planned virtual social activity, sometimes spontaneously video calling a friend, especially one who may have also just gotten done for the day, can be the change in atmosphere and demeanor that you need to ensure you don’t feel burnt out from earlier in the day. I love to brew a strong cup of tea when I do this, and then it almost feels like I’m getting coffee with a friend to catch up after classes the way I would in a regular semester. Almost.
Go For a Walk
This one always, always works. Unless the weather outside is apocalyptically smoky due to the current wildfires. In which case, don’t go for a walk. But again, adding a podcast or fun soundtrack or a phone call with a friend and getting your legs pumping is a great way to feel less trapped within the walls of your home or workspace, and the fresh air is sure to wake you up too!
Different things work for different people. Zoom classes are rough but these little pleasures have done wonders for my ability to stay (somewhat) focused, and have served as important reminders that college is about so much more than online classes.