Are you having trouble focusing, feeling lonely or hopeless, lacking motivation, withdrawing from people?
These are some of the symptoms of pandemic fatigue, a condition brought on by the stresses and fears of the past year, combined with having too much free time.
The hallmark of pandemic fatigue is a sense of inner weariness, says UCLA Health.
The bad news is that the pandemic will linger for a while, but the good news is that there are ways to counteract the mental and emotional toll and cultivate a new sense of intellectual vigor.
Pepsi Umberger, an assistant teaching professor of kinesiology at Penn State
New Kensington, is helping students with that by teaching a course on stress relief.
“In the past few years, the stress level in students has been so much higher,” she said. “The pandemic seemed like the perfect opportunity to implement this class.”
Clearing out some stress will leave more room for positive thoughts, she said. Those thoughts can be encouraged and reinforced through practices like meditating on gratitude and kindness; logging feelings and habits to track behaviors that make you feel better; and journaling.
“Journaling helps you empty out your brain,” she said. “The process of getting everything out is cathartic.”
Once you have a little more room upstairs, you might have some enthusiasm for learning something new. And there are plenty of ways to do it from the comfort and safety of home.
For many adults, virtual continuing education programs are a good place to start, said Sylvia Detar, director of continuing education at Westmoreland County Community College.
“Continuing education provides opportunities to learn a new hobby, find a new interest and build new friendships with like-minded people,” she said. “There are no tests or quizzes, so there isn’t that pressure.
“It can help you keep in touch with trends and new technology, and it’s an opportunity to test the waters for people thinking about going back to college,” she added
“There are advantages to both in-person and virtual learning, and nothing can fully compare to the in-person learning environment, but the pandemic has shown that virtual platforms are here to stay to continue to provide flexibility,” said Patricia Hollinger, director of continuing education at PSU New Kensington. “Technology has allowed learning to continue through the pandemic, while keeping health and safety a priority.
“Depending on the platform used, there are many options for student engagement in a virtual setting, and at times, it may even allow for those students who may be more quiet or reserved to feel more comfortable and get acquainted to the classes,” she said.
It’s not all dry academics, either, Detar said. WCCC’s spring virtual offerings include blogging and podcasting for beginners, guitar and Italian.
“Some people are highly allergic to online learning in general,” said Valerie Stipcak, a music teacher from Plum who is offering virtual voice and piano lessons. “They think it’s not going to work but, once they get into it, they see that it does work.
“Music specifically brings joy to households,” she said. “Sometimes when young people take lessons, their parents learn alongside them. It’s a bonding activity.
Virtual lessons also can add structure to normal rountines disrupted by the pandemic, she said. Another benefit: “For people who feel like they’re isolated, it adds socialization.”
Virtual dance lessons can stretch other creative muscles, said Maria Caruso, founding director of Bodiography dance conservatory in Pittsburgh, which is offering both in-person and Zoom classes.
“Not only is a virtual class a great exercise physically, but it is also mentally empowering when you do not have the option to be in the studio,” she said. “While most students can’t do all of the exercises in a confined space, which is a benefit to in-person classes, we focus on providing virtual learners with modifications so that they can continue to work at the same level as the in person students, but simply in another fashion.
“Bodiography’s focus, first and foremost, is on health and wellness. We believe that it is a synergy between the mind, body, and spirit,” she said. “And, we are thrilled to be able to offer every body a safe and inspiring platform for dance.”
Expand your horizons
Are you interested in art, architecture, history or nature? Would you like to explore an entirely new topic?
Expand your horizons by viewing one (or more) of these virtual programs. Your new knowledge can boost your self-esteem and maybe even impress your friends.
August Wilson African American Cultural Center
• Lit Fridays, Feb. 26
This episode of the literary-focused salon will feature the center’s literary curator, Jessica Lanay, in conversation with photographer Ming Smith, known for her informal, in-action portraits of Black cultural figures. Smith’s work is found in collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum & Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Carnegie Museum of Art
“We have been connecting with audiences virtually in a variety ways for years, including via our collection of more than 34,000 objects; our award-winning online journal,
Storyboard; the Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris
Archive, and our social media channels,” said Dana Bishop-Root, CMOA director of education and public programs.
“Since the pandemic hit, we’ve developed a vast offering of virtual events and programs, our first-ever podcast titled ‘Mirror with a Memory,’ an online exhibition series and more.”
The museum also offers Tool Kits designed for K-12 students that use artworks from the collection to inspire critical thinking, foster academic connections and reinforce key curriculum components. Bishop-Root said anyone can learn from the Tool Kits, which “can help sharpen skills in understanding the interconnectivity of our world — something especially relevant right now.”
Who isn’t fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterwork in Fayette County? Hop on the website for a virtual tour, and then learn more about the historical landmark through a series of free webinars. Topics include:
• The rare synergy between Fallingwater’s built architecture and its surrounding landscape.
• Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture seen through the lens of contemporary efforts to create a more sustainable built environment for the future.
• The challenges and rewards of conserving the outdoor sculptures at Fallingwater and other museums across the country.
• Textiles in the Fallingwater collection.
• Innovative approaches taken to overcome the unique challenges of preserving Fallingwater.
If you’re intrigued by the visitors to your backyard feeder, learn more during these bird programs:
• Cartoons for Conservation, March 11
Rosemary Mosco, a naturalist, children’s book author and creator of Bird and Moon Comics, will describe her journey to a career blending cartoons and science, while sharing stories of funny creatures she’s met along the way.
According to BirdWatching Magazine,
Mosco “is the rare humorist who understands nature and biology well enough to make even the most cranky birder crack a smile.” Her comics are collected in “Birding Is My Favorite Video Game,” a 2019 ALA Great Graphic Novel for Teens, and have appeared in publications such as Nature Ecology & Evolution and
• Bird Nerds Virtual Trivia, March 20
Gather on Zoom with other bird enthusiasts and see how much you know about feathered friends from around the world. The session is for participants 21 and older.
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
• Virtual Architecture Tour: Upper Penn-East Liberty, Feb. 24
Take a Zoom visit to the area bounded by Penn and Liberty avenues and Ninth and Tenth streets in downtown Pittsburgh, where commerce and rail transportation merged in the late 19th century. The tour explores the architectural legacy of commercial buildings in the area constructed between 1884 and 1916, at the height of the Gilded Age, as well as contemporary landmarks and the role of preservation in revitalizing the district.
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art
The Greensburg facility offers educational programs exploring its exhibitions, works from its collection and other content, along with interactive workshops in which participants create their own masterpieces. Here are a few select upcoming events:
• For the Love of Furniture Episode 3, Feb. 27
Interior designer Anthony Allgeier looks at furniture in the museum’s permanent collection. Through function, design, architecture, color theory, fashion and film, he discusses the importance of the pieces to the collection and how they have been reinterpreted in modern designs.
• Drag Queen Art Critique, March 26
Drag queens Alora Chateaux and Tootsie Snyder provide a tongue-in-cheek take
on springtime favorite works from The Westmoreland’s collection.
• Just Sing! Singing for Self-Care, March 28
Anqwenique Kinsel, a vocalist, educator and a museum resident artist, will lead participants in a series of vocal and breathing exercises, which can be used for self-care, reducing stress, building confidence and more.
Westmoreland County Community College
The spring schedule of continuing education courses runs from March to May. Online classes will have start and end dates, and students can access class content at their leisure. Remote classes will be live on Zoom, and participants will be able to interact with the instructor and fellow students during class time.
Personal enrichment offerings come under the headings of arts and crafts, fitness and health, food, language, law and money and personal interest. There also are business, industry, professional development and computer classes — and even one for those eager to expand their knowledge of wine.
Some offerings require preregistration or have a fee. Check individual websites for details.
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