It’s a typical weekday. I wake up, and as I struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed, I aimlessly scroll through TikTok and Instagram until I can’t put off getting up any longer. As I eat breakfast, I look through my Twitter feed and am confronted with reminder after reminder of the grim state of our world. After more aimless scrolling, it’s time to start the day by catching up on any readings or homework that I have in front of me. At this point in the morning, the glare of the screen is already starting to hurt my eyes.
It’s hard to get away from our screens when both our academic and social lives rely on them so heavily.
Once I’m done with that, it’s time for Zoom lectures. Depending on the day, these can range from anywhere between three to six hours of me desperately trying to pay attention and not fall asleep. After classes are done for the day, it’s time for readings, quiz prep, and a few paragraphs of that essay I still need to start. Depending on how much time I have once I’m finished, I’ll either read a little bit of whatever ebook I’m currently reading or, if I’m too drained, I will unwind by watching an episode or two of Glee. I fall asleep with red eyes and a pounding headache, only for me to wake up the next morning to start this cycle all over again.
Your homework and notifications will be there waiting for you when you’re done, but for that brief moment of time, just allow yourself to exist in the moment.
We’ve always been a digital generation, but with distance learning and Montreal extending its red zone restrictions for another month, almost our entire lives have moved online. It’s hard to get away from our screens when both our academic and social lives rely on them so heavily. While it may be difficult to substantially reduce our screen time in the long run, it is possible to take a little time out of our day to unwind and unplug. This can be small periods scattered in between classes, or it can be an hour at the start or end of your day where you can just take some time for yourself. During that time, turn off your phone and put your computer away. Your homework and notifications will be there waiting for you when you’re done, but for that brief moment of time, just allow yourself to exist in the moment.
The prospect of finding things to do when you unplug may seem daunting. What can the real world possibly give me that my MacBook cannot? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1.Cook or Bake Something Special.
As students, we tend to veer towards food that is quick, easy, and cheap. Many of us view cooking as a necessity and forget the love and care that can go into a meal. As a way to practice my cooking and baking skills, I’ve given myself the challenge of cooking one meal and baking one dessert every week that takes a little more time than I would usually devote to making food. While it was a little daunting at first, the leftover Spinach Lasagna and Snickerdoodle Blondies that sustained me during midterms made it totally worth it. So, write out a recipe that you’ve been dying to try, and dedicate a little extra time to make something special! You don’t have to be a star chef or baker to create something delicious, and it could be a nice change of pace from leftover Annie’s Mac and Cheese.
2. Channel Your Inner Artist.
When someone says “art,” people’s minds generally jump to visual formats such as painting or drawing. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are so many other ways that you can be creative and unleash the artist within you. You can journal, write a poem or story, or you can pick up a long-forgotten instrument and compose a song. It doesn’t matter if the artwork you create is good. What matters is the simple act of creating. Creativity is so often seen as something that we must commodify to make a profit, but it’s important to give yourself permission to be bad at something so you can work on it and eventually excel. Sometimes you should do a task for the mere pleasure of it, not for an extrinsic goal or CV stamp.
3. Read a Book Before Bed.
I know that after finishing an endless stream of convoluted readings, the thought of picking up a book for pleasure may not be your chosen method of unwinding. Nonetheless, I think that getting into the habit of reading leisurely is a worthwhile pursuit. I suggest reading a little bit before bed, as it has been proven to reduce stress and improve sleeping habits. I also recommend choosing print books rather than ebooks, as we all know we could do without another screen in our lives. During the school year, I find that my reading habits veer towards lighter reads, which is a nice change of pace from the dense texts I have to read for school. Graphic novels, poetry books, novels in verse, and old favourites can be great reading material when you’re in need of something easy to fly through. My personal favourites lately? Jason’s Reynold’s Long Way Down and Emily Henry’s Beach Read.
4. Challenge Your Brain With Crossword Puzzles.
Once, during a trip to the dollar store, I stumbled across a book of crossword puzzles. After this chance incident, I have since gotten in the habit of completing a puzzle when my eyes need something that isn’t a screen to stare at. I know it sounds more like a grandmother’s way of unwinding, but there’s something oddly comforting about completing a crossword puzzle. The book I purchased is filled with easy puzzles, which makes it a lot less frustrating than completing a typical crossword would. There’s a sense of accomplishment that occurs every time I cross off the last word and stare proudly at my completed grid. It’s a great way to distract yourself from the news and your studies. Likewise, not only are crosswords a great stress relief, but they also have been proven to help with memory retention.
It is crucial that we begin to find a balance between time spent in front of a screen and time spent unplugged. It may seem like we don’t have enough hours in the day for these things, but taking time for yourself will ultimately benefit other areas in your life. It’s important that we do things every once and a while that in that brief moment only benefit ourselves. Give yourself permission to indulge, to create, and to appreciate the wonders that surround you. While it may not always seem like it, trust me, the work can wait.