Category Archives: Wellness & Fitness

10 Tips to not go insane during zoom university

As fall rolls in and schools all across America open their virtual doors to students, frustration and uncertainty begin to set in. Going from an in-person learning environment where the teacher is five feet away to answer questions, to the isolation of virtual learning is physically draining and emotionally exhausting. Staying on task is a challenge in itself with the dog barking in the background, or mom walking in the room to ask a question while the professor struggles to figure out how to unmute themself.

Online classes are overwhelming at best, and panic-inducing at worse. So, as we all struggle to enter the correct zoom codes by the time class starts or figure out what’s due tomorrow, here are some tips to help get you through the insanity of Zoom University.

Illustration by Serena Rodriguez

1. Put Yourself on a Sleep Schedule

With most classes online for the fall semester, professors have given up on attendance policies and resorted to recording lectures to be viewed at any time. While the course usually isn’t self-paced, there’s not always a requirement to wake up on time for that 8 a.m. This could definitely lead to thinking ‘why not just sleep till noon?’ — It’s tempting, definitely, but keeping your body on a schedule will help you in the long run. Not only will your internal clock thank you, but you’ll spend more days waking up refreshed than groggy and ready to go back to bed.

2. Separate Your Work Area from Your Sleep Area

The mind is capable of a lot, but if you’re constantly curled up under your covers in bed while flipping through powerpoints and taking notes, it’s not going to be able to differentiate sleep time from work time. This could have a major effect on your sleeping patterns, especially if the place you’re supposed to be sleeping becomes a source of stress instead of relaxation. Work at the kitchen table instead, or at a desk, to help keep the spaces separate and the mindsets in each space separate too.

3. Make Time to go Outside

While it might seem pretty cool at first to not have to go out and do things, it can also be detrimental to your physical health. The sun provides natural vitamin D, and even if you can’t be out partying with friends all the time anymore, you should still make time to go for a walk or even just sit outside for a bit. If nothing else you could always sit at a Starbucks patio and do some homework (or scroll through tiktok, whatever keeps you out in the sunshine for a little longer).

4. Plan at Least One Full Week at a Time

While classes seem less organized this semester as everyone struggles to get a handle on online learning, it’s important to do your best to plan ahead. I personally always try to plan two weeks out in order to make sure I’m keeping up with assignments, but planning a weekly schedule is probably the perfect time frame. Make a note of all the important due dates that week, when to do those more passive assignments like readings, and try to think about how much time you’re willing to spend on school work each day. Block out a specific amount of time instead of going back and forth with the work all day to continue to help differentiate relaxation from work.

5. Do Your Chores

Sitting around the house all day without having to worry about looking decent can make chores like laundry seem daunting and unnecessary. Make time for this stuff too. Don’t let the dishes get out of hand or the clothes take over the floor. Cleaner environments can actually reduce anxiety and depression levels, while being cooped up all day could definitely exacerbate those problems, so do what you can to help keep your environment looking good — your brain will thank you.

6. Make Time for Friends

Whether it’s a Zoom party, a socially distant coffee date, or a day at the park, make time for the people you care about. Isolation has a lot of negative effects on human health, and while it might seem harder to spend time with people, be sure to put in the effort to get in some quality time with them. The serotonin will start pumping again, I promise, and it will be a nice break from all the extra online schoolwork.

7. Use GroupMe (Or Some Other Alternative)

Now more than ever it’s important to create spaces to contact your classmates. It’s not like you can reach over and tap someone to ask for their number, so the best thing to do is to talk to the professor about getting a GroupMe link sent out to the class so you can have a one-stop-shop to talk due dates, get some help in the class, or even just complain to someone who understands the struggle.

8. Don’t Slack on Hygiene

Just like you need to clean your house, you need to clean your body. Just because nobody is around to smell your bad breath doesn’t mean you shouldn’t brush your teeth. Sometimes, when there’s not a daily structure that in-person classes provide, things like hygiene can be  forgotten. It’s important to remind yourself to keep up with the things you would normally do. A nice shower is the perfect getaway from all things Zoom University, and will  leave you feeling refreshed and ready for whatever the day may bring.

9. Organize Your School Space

Since you’re separating your sleep and workspaces, make sure you take the time to organize that workspace. Having papers everywhere and pens sprawled across the area can lead to confusion and frustration, and sometimes when things get too messy it can make you feel like giving up. Don’t let your school space get disorganized, instead follow some tips from a fellow BurntX writer to help keep your space organized.

10. Actually Go To Class

Okay, so it’s not mandatory. Attendance policies are a thing of the past and all the lectures are recorded for whenever you want to watch them, so, why even bother? Getting that live zoom lecture is the closest to an in-person feel you’re going to get. You can ask questions in real time and talk about points you need clarified up front. Beyond that, you can meet classmates and use breakout rooms to your advantage to get names and numbers of people who can help you get through the course. As much as I’m sure we all wish it was, this is not a semester off from hard work. So whether it’s an 8 a.m. or an 8 p.m., make sure you’re logged into zoom and ready to participate for the majority of the semester.

So you’re living alone…in the middle of a pandemic

It’s okay to feel lonely while we’re encouraged to isolate, but it can be used to our advantage. 

One of the most pivotal moments for teenagers-turned-young-adults is leaving home and beginning to live on your own. Whether it’s your first apartment, a campus dorm room, or even your first house, living by yourself offers a newfound sense of freedom in your life. 

However, loneliness takes a new meaning when you’re living alone for the first time in the middle of a pandemic. We used to only worry about meals we have to learn to cook or how to do our own laundry. Now however, the biggest issue to face is the natural feeling of isolation which comes from living alone and the need to stay inside. The biggest piece of advice to share is to not let the fear of living alone overwhelm you. 

At least for me, the routine I have found myself reliving every day is wake up, eat, sit at my desk for class, eat again, watch Netflix, and go to sleep. When I start to dwell on this boring pattern for long I begin to see my anxiety grow and the loneliness set in. Being in my first apartment this year, I have learned some things and have come to new realizations that could possibly help you fight off the feeling of isolation as well. 

Socialization is important in so many areas of our lives, especially for mental health. If you’re living with roommates, I challenge you to befriend them if you have not already and reach out to them if you need someone to be with. Having dinner together, cooking meals together, watching movies, or doing homework together could be simple ways to grow closer as roommates and hopefully flourish into friendship. However, if you don’t have roommates or don’t particularly get along with yours; don’t stress. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates in order to not feel lonesome. Virtual socialization can be just as comforting and fun as being with someone in person. Contact friends you have from home or friends you have living in the same city as you and connect virtually through Facetime, Netflix Party, or even going to a park together while practicing safe social distancing and following healthy guidelines. Remember, everyone feels lonely. As a matter of fact, UT has a loneliness hotline on the CMCH website which can help you deal with the anxiety that comes from isolation. It is natural especially when living alone to feel lonely, but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your time with you. 

Living by yourself drives you to find yourself. I know it can be scary, but being alone has benefits as well. Loneliness can be a force used to encourage yourself to get your life together. Think of it this way: we have all the time in the world right now to focus on ourselves and come to terms with loneliness. So make the most of it. Make self-care important to you, and take time out of your days to do something for yourself. Sometimes when I feel lonely in my apartment I think, “what is something I could do to enjoy by myself?” By asking myself this question, I am learning more about who I am and becoming my own best friend. This leads me to switch up my routines or simply find new things I enjoy doing alone. One of my favorite new activities is buying candles for myself and lighting them in my room while I’m doing work or taking a bath. It is incredibly comforting to walk into your room and have it smell good. I asked a few friends what their favorite thing to do alone is and the common consensus is trying to be put together even though you’re not leaving your room. Cleaning your room or apartment can help you feel accomplished and comfortable in a huge way. Additionally, taking a shower, doing your hair, putting on some makeup, or dressing up cute can all be valid ways to make yourself happier and feel successful without leaving your home. Any small task or goal you set for yourself can make the biggest difference. Another friend who lived by herself for the entire summer said she found art as a wonderful escape and something that made her happy and less lonely. 

One of the most helpful tips I have received is the importance of decorating your own space. Copious amounts of cash is not a requirement to do this either. Put the things that you enjoy in your space and it will help with loneliness or feeling out of place. I’m sure the new bed you’re sleeping in doesn’t yet have that comforting feeling of your bed at home, but you will get there. Being in a cozy environment gives a certain sense of purpose that dims the feeling of being lonely. 

Lastly, I do want to encourage you to get outside if you can. My bedroom at my apartment has no windows, so I often feel low or discouraged throughout the day which leads to loneliness. Whenever I go outside however, I instantly feel better and more connected to the rest of the world. This can mean different things for whoever or wherever you are. Going to a nearby park and doing classwork, getting up and going on a walk in the morning around the place you live, or even taking a walk through campus are all good ideas to get you into the daylight. Being outside naturally boosts your energy levels and happiness. Free aromatherapy and a boosted immune system are also benefits of spending just 30 minutes a day outside. 

Remember to take everything at your own pace. Living alone is terrifying to some and with the climate of today’s world where we are encouraged to spend most of our time indoors, there is lots of room for growth and development in yourself. So yes, you need to learn how to cook, clean, do laundry, and set a routine for yourself, but the good thing is that you have all the time in the world to do it. Finding a groove that works for you takes time. If you feel extra isolated right now please don’t tear yourself apart trying to fix it. Small goals are a big help. Talk to friends, cook yourself your favorite meal, take a bath, paint a picture, or anything else that makes you happy with yourself. If you do feel extreme isolation or loneliness, never hesitate to reach out to someone. However, use this time of confinement and the feeling of aloneness to challenge yourself and learn things about yourself that you might not have seen before.

A Guide to Grocery Shopping for college students

Grocery shopping is a common dread for many college students. A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially if it is a store that is unfamiliar. Not only is it a hassle to find the time to physically go to the store, but it can also be expensive. After a few laps up and down the aisles, somehow $80 has quickly disappeared, and on what? Sandwich meat, a box of cereal and eggs turns out to be the quickest money ever spent. Although it may be dreaded, grocery shopping cannot be avoided. Here are some tips to make this weekly chore more efficient and cost-effective.   

  1. Planning is the key to success at the grocery store.

Yes, planning takes time and effort, but in order to avoid overspending, food waste and an unsatisfied stomach, a plan needs to be set. Take 10 to 15 minutes before making a grocery trip to plan the purchases. Think about what meals will be made that week and if any extra ingredients are needed. Go through the fridge and pantry and check for items that have already been purchased. The easiest way to save money while shopping is to use what is already available.

  1. Schedule your trip to the store into your weekly routine. 

Block off time using the planner format that you are most comfortable with. Knowing the trip is already scheduled will make the experience at the grocery store less stressful and rushed.

  1. Download a grocery app. 

Almost every grocery store has an app that allows for online shopping, member discounts and other resources. The HEB app has several tools to make shopping easier. Users are able to scroll through HEB’s inventory and create a shopping list that is automatically organized based on the item’s location in the store. The app also showcases weekly coupons that can be stored on the user’s account and scanned during check-out.

  1. If curbside delivery is available, take advantage of doing the absolute least! 

Ordering your groceries online through curbside is the best way to keep the cart total low. While perusing the aisles in person, temptation from the infinite delicious items on the shelves is unavoidable. Ordering online with a running cart total helps prevent unnecessary and expensive snack purchases. Always check for added fees with curbside and save money by selecting time slots or days that are free.

  1. Do not forget to check expiration dates on items. 

Search through the shelves to find the date that is furthest away from the current day. This will decrease food waste and decrease the number of shopping trips.

  1. When purchasing produce pay attention to the prices.

At most stores, fruits and vegetables are priced by the pound. Do not get trapped into paying $9 for a bag of grapes (This is a mistake I made last week. Do not be me.)

  1. Purchasing spices is an easy and cheap way to take meals to the next level. 

Spices can completely change the boring chicken that has been a recurring meal for the past week into a lemon-pepper-garlic flavorful meal. Start with staple spices like Italian seasoning, garlic salt, fajita seasoning and explore from there.

  1. To save money, buy store brand items. There is typically no outstanding difference in taste or quality, but the price drop is significant.
  1. Do not shop hungry. 

Shopping while hungry will only lead to impulse purchases and overbuying that will hurt your college budget. 

The grocery store does not have to be a fearful place. Approach the shopping trip with an open mind and a simple plan. When in doubt, do not underestimate the motivation found at the sight of an empty fridge. Grocery shopping is unavoidable, so you might as well do it right.

Tips for Creating a Work Environment at Home

Classes at UT Austin are back in session, but unlike ever before they are commencing amidst a global pandemic. For many students, this means a semester full of uncertainty and adaptation especially when it comes to classes. Students are spending more time at home then ever before and the adjustment can be challenging. 

In the comfort of your own bed, you can attend lectures, talk with your professor and even take a test. It sounds like a dream come true, but in reality students are struggling to find a routine, become productive and manage their mental health. It is easy for your home to become a place of stress and responsibility instead of relaxation and nourishment. 

Regardless of if you are living in a small West Campus apartment, or a large family home, creating a work environment where you live is essential for success this semester. Here are some ways to create a space that promotes productivity, encourages rest and allows for growth and learning. 

  1. Finding your Space

Privacy is a luxury when it comes to staying home and it can be really hard to focus with families and roommates all around. When picking a place to work here is what to consider.

Assess the environment in which you like to learn. Do you like a lot of noise, some sounds, or no sound at all? If you like peace and quiet it might be best to pick a bedroom or a closet, but if you like a lot of sound and movement pick the living room or a kitchen island.

 It’s also important to note that having more than one study space is a great way to break the monotony of online school. Try separating certain tasks into certain settings. For example, when you attend class and want a quiet setting move to a small bedroom or maybe even a patio or backyard, but don’t be afraid to sit in the living room with other roommates while filling out your planner or copying notes from a powerpoint slide. 

  1. Setting up your Space

Truthfully, the way you decorate and organize your desk can be more important than its location. A cluttered desk often reflects in the quality of your study time and work. Similarly, the more organized and personalized your desk is the more likely you are to have a productive and motivated study session. 

The best way to avoid a cluttered desk is to not keep too many things on your desk. A storage organizer for your notebooks, pens, pencils and folders will help to contain the clutter. The more blank space you leave on your desk, the more room you have to spread out your study materials 

Secondly, it is important to make your desk a welcoming environment. Not only does a personalized space encourage you to study, it can also make studying more comfortable. Here are some ideas on how to personalize your desk:

  • Add pictures of your friends and family
  • Switch out your LED lamp for a warm-lit salt lamp or Christmas lights
  • Add a fuzzy blanket or pillow to your desk chair
  • Brighten your desk with a plant or greenery
  • Place a vision board above your desk
  • Add small knick-knacks or fidget toys to your desk
  • Add a candle or a small essential oil diffuser
  • Get a small weekly or monthly desk calendar