How Pitt students are passing the time during social distancing

Nikita Bargaje has spent some of her time in quarantine crafting a three-dimensional monogram letter “N” to help distract her from the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Nikita Bargaje.

These days, when Sarah Cooper finds she needs extra support, she turns to the floor.

That’s what her online meditation instructs her to do — trust that the floor will support her as she slowly releases pent-up tension. The self-guided exercises are one way the sophomore marketing major is relieving stress and instilling routine into her day amid remote learning.

Pitt students are trying to de-stress in many ways in the wake of the University moving classes online and closing residence halls. Although sitting at home in front of a laptop has become the norm for many students and social distancing greatly limits what people can do, students have cultivated new hobbies or dived further into old ones to pass time.

Cooper has chosen to start practicing not only meditation, but also yoga. She said her practice highlights the importance of mindfulness in confusing times.

“Once I have gone down my entire body, I like to stay there for a while and practice a mantra,” Cooper said. “This is something else that is so specific to the individual and the day, really.”

With many students spending a lot of time on their phones and laptops due to online learning, looking for ways to entertain themselves on these devices while at home has also become very common. First-year student Srija Konduru said she has run out of books to read in her house and spends time scrolling through the social media app TikTok, where creators make and post short videos.

“I like that it can be a distraction from the stress of school, home and the pandemic in general,” Konduru said. “It gives you a few hours a day to be by yourself and just not think.”

Aside from social media, many students are finding themselves watching movies and shows on YouTube or other streaming platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. First-year finance and marketing major Jonathan Li, who said he spends time catching up on shows such as “Blacklist,” has also taken up cooking as a hobby.

“Occasionally, I look up a recipe for how to use an ingredient that we have, but most of the time, I just look through the refrigerator, pantry and spice cabinet and pick out items that I think would go well together,” Li said. “Since I generally don’t use measuring tools, I tend to eyeball it and taste it as I go to make sure it doesn’t taste bad.”

For Li, cooking is a way to unwind amid the current situation, and he appreciates how it allows him to try things in an outside-the-box way that he isn’t always able to do in his classes.

“Cooking has been one of my interests for a long time now, but with the whole pandemic situation going on, it is definitely one of my go-to pastimes, de-stressing activities. Whereas my classes are ‘do this, then do that,’ cooking is more ‘do whatever you want in whatever order you choose,’” Li said.

As Li channels his inner Gordon Ramsay, others, such as sophomore Nikita Bargaje, are channeling their inner Bob Ross. Bargaje, a finance major, has been building and decorating a 3D monogram letter “N” and working on a project where she glues crayons to a canvas and melts them, causing them to drip down the canvas. She said these artistic activities help distract her from the shutdown.

“It keeps me busy for long periods of time. My mind focuses on completing these activities rather than thinking about what could have been. I always wanted to do art projects that I intended to put in my room, dorm, but never got the time to complete till now,” Bargaje said.

Some students have started focusing more on mindfulness. Along with guided meditation, Cooper said she does yoga at home to take care of her body and wind down.

“Sitting inside all day, it is so important to move your body in some sort of capacity to get out built-up tension and energy,” Cooper said. “Releasing excess tension and energy and getting out of my head are 100% helping me stay grounded.”

Using YouTube videos on yoga and meditation apps, Cooper takes time to rejuvenate her body and brain through these practices. She finds it important to relieve stress and concentrate on herself to process her emotions.

“I am really trying to focus on it now more than ever,” Cooper said. “I think that in difficult times, checking in with yourself and how you are feeling is so important. It helps you understand what you really are feeling.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Sarah Cooper as a first-year student. The Pitt News regrets this error.

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