Five Tips For Coping With Finals Stress

Written By: Annilee Hampton

Finals are always stressful, and in 2020, with our fraught political situation, global pandemic, and the numerous changes that people have had to make to everyday lives, the pressure only seems worse. Here are five tips and tricks that will help to ease stress in the coming weeks.

Make a plan. Making a study schedule will make your workload seem much more manageable, as well as helping you to manage your time effectively and prevent procrastination. Break things down into smaller, easier to manage tasks, and make a checklist of what you need to do each day. Crossing items off of your list will not only remind you what still needs to be done, but will also give you a sense of satisfaction as you make your way down the list. 

Try to avoid pulling an all-nighter cram session. You might think that information might stick better in your brain if it is fresher, but studies have proven that this strategy may actually worsen your performance on tests. Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola’s 2007 study “Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance” explains that the brain codes information while you sleep and stores it for future reference. If you do not sleep, the brain finds it much more difficult to find stored information in your memories. By ditching the all-nighter, you are not only more likely to do better on exams, but you will  be much more well-rested and happier on exam day. 

Don’t forget to eat. Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in studying that something as simple as food can slip your mind. However, food is extremely beneficial when studying, not just in that it gives you energy and keeps you moving, but in that certain foods can have certain specific benefits. Kelly Urban, a dietitian working at the University of North Carolina, has stated that berries and other food high in Vitamin C can help “enhance brain performance [and] improve memory”. Nuts can help with enhancing memory, and avocados can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Even treats like dark chocolate have important properties for studying, containing caffeine and antioxidant boosts that keep you alert and concentrated. 

Give yourself a break. Studying and studying without breaks could very easily lead to burnout. According to productivity app DeskTime, it is most effective to work in shifts of about an hour — 52 minutes of studying, followed by a 17 minute break. It is just enough time to leave you feeling refreshed upon returning to work, but not long enough to become too distracted and lose focus. Taking breaks prevents you from making careless mistakes or becoming disengaged from your work. There are important psychological benefits to giving yourself a break to go for a walk or quickly scroll through TikTok. “The more relaxed and disengaged from work people feel during a break, the more likely they will be to benefit from taking time off,” said Wharton School doctoral student Hengchen Dai.Reward yourself for accomplishments. Make sure that you have something you are working towards – whether it is after finals are completely over, or just during a study break, you deserve a reward for working so hard. Not only that, but it gives you something to work towards, a light at the end of the tunnel. Watch a few episodes of your favorite show during a break, or buy yourself something to reward yourself for all the hard work you have done. With all the chaos in the world this year, it has been a very stressful semester and you deserve to treat yourself.

Voting By Mail Is Good, Not Bad

Written By: Dylan Parham

Mail-in ballots for everyone! Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, mail-in ballots became a central topic. As of Nov. 6, over 65 million mail-in ballots were returned to election offices, according to the U.S. Election Project. The U.S. Election Project was created and maintained by the University of Florida political science professor Michael P. McDonald. In Maryland, for the primary election, every registered voter received a mail-in ballot in the mail. For the general election, every registered voter received a mail-in ballot request. Maryland’s state board of elections reported that over 1.2 million mail-in ballot votes were cast for president. In crucial swing states for both campaigns like Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, mail-in ballots amounted to a quarter or more of the total votes counted according to election data collected by Times 

Even with record-high mail-in ballot requests nationwide, vote by mail still had its critics. Most notably, President Trump and his re-election campaign. The president is quoted to have said the following about voting by mail. “[mail-in ballots] …lead to massive corruption and fraud,” that foreign powers will “forge ballots” and that the “only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” The Trump campaign has filed several lawsuits in different states claiming voter fraud. In Pennsylvania, a federal judge heard one of these cases and dismissed the case. According to the New York Times, he was implying the effort to disenfranchise voters who were following state instructions.

The Biden campaign has also weighed in on the issue. Officials with the campaign have stated that they would challenge every legal case the Trump campaign would bring the court. The Biden campaign indicated that they were confident that none of the present cases so far seemed likely to loosen former Vice President Biden’s lead in key swing states for the presidency.

The Brennan Center at the New York School of Law’s report on voter fraud, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are traceable to other sources of clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud and found incident rates between 0.0003% and 0.0025%. In layman’s terms, voter fraud is extremely rare.

Mail-in ballots also have their drawbacks.”There are state laws in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada that do not allow for ballots to be counted until election day. It took several days for enough ballot results to be released to call a winner in each state. 

Like many Americans, I chose to vote by mail. If this election cycle has shown anything, Americans will choose mail-in ballots if given a choice. Of course, researchers and data collectors will have to continually look at future data to see if this trend continues with the elections going forward.

Increasing Your Activism After Biden’s Win

Written By: Hannah Yale

After several stressful days of constantly checking the news, the 2020 Presidential Election results finally came in, and Democratic Candidate Joe Biden was declared the winner by the Associated Press. Tears were shed, hugs were given, and people all around the country sighed with relief. We finally did it. We finally voted Donald Trump out of office. 

For most leftists in America, former Vice President Joe Biden was not their first choice. After all, is Joe Biden, another old white guy, really going to make the radical institutional changes that this country needs to protect human rights and promote social and economic equity? Probably not, but Joe Biden does believe in the fundamental principles of democracy and he is trying to learn from his past mistakes and lead the country to a brighter future. Biden has comprehensive plans to implement stricter social distancing mandates during the pandemic, create a public option healthcare system, increase taxes for the wealthy while providing tax relief to working-class families, and begin to transition the nation to sustainable energy usage. This is all much-needed progress for America, but it is not enough, and Biden’s election is not a signal that it is okay to sit back down and relax now.

Over the next two months, President Trump may try to implement policy through executive orders, challenge the election results in court, or even refuse to concede the presidency. The remainder of the Trump presidency is going to require extreme vigilance, and we all need to protect and advocate for ourselves and others who are endangered by Trumpism and xenophobia. 

When Biden is sworn in on Inauguration Day, the fight will still not be over. Every day that the police continue to be funded as a militarized intuition, Black lives are at risk. Every day that “gay and trans panic” defenses continue to be legal in 39 states, LGBTQ+ lives are at risk. Every day that ICE continues to deport and detain hardworking and innocent people, immigrant lives are at risk. Many of us do not have the option of stepping out of politics because our fundamental human rights are in danger, and we need allies. 

Biden’s win is not your ticket out of activism— in fact, it is a rallying cry. With a Democratic president, albeit a moderate one, leftist community activists have a chance of creating lasting policy changes in this country. I urge you to take this opportunity to step up your game. Do not limit yourself to social media activism. Do your own research! Watch documentaries, read books, read the actual news instead of getting your news from Twitter. Remember that all politicians need to be held accountable for their actions, and we can vote them out of office and influence their policy decisions while they hold office. Call your elected officials or meet with them in person if you can; local politicians such as city council members and state assembly members will almost always make time to meet with constituents. Donate to community funds or nonprofits, and get involved with your local grassroots activist communities. Find a local chapter of Black Lives Matter or Human Rights Campaign and ask what you can do to help. The possibilities are endless, and the power is in your hands.

How to Have a Safe Holiday Season During the Pandemic

Written By: Eleanor Pratt 

As 2020 comes to an end, the holiday season will be here in no time. However, things will have to be different this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Yearly traditions may have to be modified and adjusted and some may be completely impossible. Experts have conceded that it is still possible to celebrate the holidays if one is flexible and takes the necessary precautions.

Recently, Dr. Antony Fauci told Yahoo news “I think we need to realize things might be different this year, particularly if you want to have people who are going to be flying in from a place that has a lot of infection.” Dr Mark Jarrett, the chief quality officer for New York’s Northwell Health, echoed this sentiment when he spoke to Healthline saying “Family gatherings this year may put our loved ones at risk, especially the most vulnerable, such as grandparents. Better to miss one in-person holiday, so all can celebrate together next year.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together an incredibly useful list of tips and guides for how to safely celebrate this year. For example, when hosting a gathering for the holidays, it is best to do it outdoors. If you cannot be completely outside due to cold weather or some other factor try to increase ventilation by opening windows and doors. Hosting 20 people for Thanksgiving is just not a good idea in 2020 and it is important to keep the guest list to a minimum. 

The CDC also has tips for those just attending holiday gatherings. Make sure your host is taking all necessary precautions to prevent any spread of the virus and bring extra supplies with you just in case– such as extra masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. 

It is also important for guests during the celebrations to continue to social distance, especially if many people came from out of town and have not been in quarantine. Wash your hands as much as possible and regularly disinfect areas that are constantly being touched. Try to spend as much time at home and avoid going to overly crowded places like malls or restaurants. Shopping online is definitely a must this year. 

While these precautions may seem like they take the fun out of the season and may even make things more stressful, the holidays can still be enjoyable. Activities such as going out to a local farm to pick apples or a Christmas tree are fun and low risk activities because they are outside. Hosting gatherings of local friends and family for dinner is also a much better idea rather than going to crowded restaurants. Decorating your home with your family and getting in the spirit with some festive music are also good ways to celebrate safely. 

Although this holiday season is going to feel much different than past celebrations, it is important to keep in mind that if proper precautions are followed, next year can be back to normal and hopefully much less stressed.

Halloween and The Second Wave of the Coronavirus: Are We Taking Our Safety Seriously?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

When COVID-19 first became prevalent throughout the country, concerned people did all they could to keep themselves and others safe, whether this was wearing a mask, staying home during quarantine or engaging in social distancing. However, as we move further into the pandemic, it appears that people are beginning to grow careless with their safety.

Over the summer and early fall, countries all over the world saw a decrease in cases thanks to the diligence of people dedicating themselves to safety and the hardworking people who serve as researchers healthcare providers. These brave and dedicated men, women, and non-non-binary people gave countless hours to providing care to those who were sick and studying the virus to try and find a possible vaccine. While there were people who chose not to wear masks, a great majority of people did. However, as we move further into fall, there have been an increased number of cases of the virus. According to the New York Times, the percentage of positive tests in the city were around 0.9% in early September, however that quickly raised to 1.75% by mid October. Government officials are beginning to return to stricter regulations. Here in Maryland, Governor Hogan just restricted travel to any state with a positivity rate of over 10%.

One of the unfortunate parts of being in the middle of a pandemic is being unable to attend social events and connect with our friends and loved ones. However, sacrifices must be made to keep people safe. One of the events that was unfortunately sacrificed for safety were Halloween parties. Holding such parties put people at risk for spreading the virus or even getting sick and weakening the body’s response to infections. However, it appears that over Halloween weekend, there were people who felt that this was not needed. While there were people who practiced safe Halloween celebrations, such as socially distant trick-or-treating, there were still people who went to parties and were downright careless with their safety.

 Even if people were wearing masks, there were still parties that were held in places where the maximum capacity was exceeded. This kind of behavior is not only irresponsible with one’s own health and safety but the health and safety of others as well. Wearing a mask may keep you from spreading any possible germs, it won’t keep you personally safe from anything airborne around you. Masks are smart but not 100% safe, as is the case with most health equipment. This is why social distancing is important along with wearing a mask. It is both a mask and social distance, not either/or. 

Yes, this pandemic has been difficult and everyone misses the times that were spent being close to people and being able to gather in large groups, especially for fun and festive times such as Halloween. However, cases of COVID-19 are beginning to rise and will continue to do so if people continue to be careless.

Why Students Should or Should Not Turn Their Cameras On

Written By: Zayon Morgan 

Everyone is probably familiar with, “Could everyone turn on their cameras please?” If not, then people have probably heard, “I don’t know whether you’re participating or not because I can’t see you.” If you have not been living under a rock, you will understand the struggle of this “new college experience.” With COVID-19 running rampant throughout the country, everything that we have once experienced has now been confined to a screen and microphone. People have gotten used to connecting to a Zoom call just for social interaction. However, Zoom has the option of turning on and off your video camera. While this is very convenient, it can also be very bothersome. 

Zoom and other video chatting apps have been the bridge between students and professors. We do not necessarily have to show our faces because we have the option of disabling our camera and audio. However, I do not think our professors take kindly to this feature. COVID-19 has also taken a toll on our professors who are missing that social interaction that they have once had with their students. They are not used to the idea of “remote learning” and “virtual classrooms.” For this reason, I believe that it would be fair to our instructors if we chose to turn on those cameras in hopes that it would give some sort of interaction for them. Students should also consider that turning on the camera will make it easier for them to connect with their fellow peers, as seeing their faces brings more normalcy to the classroom. While I do say this, I also believe that we still should have the option of turning off our cameras, and here is why.

Everyone is adjusting to this new lifestyle in their own way. So much has changed since we’ve heard of COVID-19. Life is not easy when you are forced to take in your college experience through a video application. There are moments where keeping the camera on is not the best option. Whenever a student is doing something that can be potentially distracting to the class, cameras should stay off. Potential distractions can include: eating, making a phone call, cleaning up a mess in the background, etc. However, it does not stop there. It should be ok for students to turn off their cameras if they are not “at their best ” Unfortunately in online school you cannot call in sick but you will have problems. Some students, like myself, have experienced the struggle an eight o’clock class has to offer. We may be just waking up after a long night of doing God knows what, when all of the sudden eight o’clock rolls around. In this case you may get students with bed-head, an unwashed face, not feeling well, etc. All of this and much more should be taken into consideration. A student should always feel confident in their appearance even while in a virtual, academic environment. 

With all of this information, it would be very fair to say that turning and off those cameras may seem insignificant but it affects a lot. While in-person contact has been limited, turning on that on that camera may help substantially when connecting virtually. 
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The Great British Bake Off is Just What the World Needs Right Now

Written By: Eleanor Pratt 

Every episode of the hit TV series “The Great British Bake Off” begins with idyllic scenes of the English countryside. As clips roll of beautiful green hills, songbirds flitting from tree to tree, and sheep grazing in nearby pastures, a calm voice explains the theme of the week and what the audience can expect to see in a particular episode. This introduction is an excellent example of the overall tone of the series, and one can almost feel the stress of the day fading away as they settle in to watch. 

Beginning in 2010, “The Great British Bake Off” has become an international hit series over the years. The show follows amatuer British bakers who must create new delicious baked goods each week to impress the two judges. Each week features a new theme, such as bread week, cake week or chocolate week. The bakers compete in three separate challenges over the course of the week, beginning with a signature bake, then moving on to a technical bake and finally ending with the “show-stopper” bake. While the bakers are allowed to practice their signatures and show-stoppers before the episode, they do not know what the technical bake is until the day of. 

To many, the show may sound like a typical cooking competition. A group of home cooks compete with one another, they are judged, and one person is sent home each week. However, once viewers begin watching, it becomes clear how different “The Great British Bake Off” is to other competition shows and how it can alleviate some of the stress from everyday life. 

Bakers are not competing for a huge cash prize or a lucrative cookbook deal, but instead for a simple cake-stand and a nice bouquet of flowers. It is very clear that each person on the show just loves to bake, and that they are on the show simply to enjoy themselves. This is a refreshing change from American cooking competitions, which are often centered around the large amount of money one can gain from winning. Viewers and bakers alike can just enjoy the process, and do not have to worry about losing too much if something goes horribly wrong. 

Contestants on “Bake Off” contribute heavily to the calming nature of the show. The bakers are unfailingly polite and kind to one another, which again sets the show apart from other, more cut-throat competitions. In almost every episode, the bakers will help each other with their bakes if someone is running behind or struggling. Ingredients are shared, advice is offered, and friendly chat is expected while they wait for their creations to finish baking. After a hard day, it is lovely to sit back and watch people bake delicious food and be genuinely kind to one another, even though they are competing. 

Because the contestants are usually all legitimately nice people, viewers are put in the strange position of rooting for everyone. While viewers might have a slight favorite, they grow to care for all of the contestants and really do not care who wins in the end. There are so many interesting bakes being made and the contestants are all trying their hardest, which makes focusing on one person just impossible. There is little to no stress of hoping and praying each week that the viewer’s very favorite will go through to the next round, because they are all the favorite in one way or another. 

In times where human decency and genuine kindness seem to be missing from many parts of our lives, “The Great British Bake Off” can help escape the stressful reality of life for just a little while. The show’s emphasis on things like friendship, perseverance, and humor will make one feel warm and might restore some faith in humanity. In the end, maybe overly polite British people making ridiculous baking puns is exactly what the world needs right now to feel just a little less stressed. 

This pandemic is not over yet.

Written By: Dylan Parham

Are we still in a pandemic? When the global pandemic hit in March of 2020, many people started to freak out. Stores and restaurants originally began by limiting the amount of guests allowed. Then, a few days later, many restaurants began to close. The “great toilet paper shortage of 2020” was the headline news, and many were not entirely sure yet if they were required to wear masks. However, that was then, and this is now. Individuals know so much more about this virus and what has to be done to ensure survival. 

The United States has been dealing with this since March. As stated earlier, it is now October; it has been eight months of this. Much like other Americans, I do not want to go back to the time in which I was worried about leaving my house and potentially getting myself and my family sick. Yet some people still seem to just be over with this pandemic. They are tired of wearing masks, social distancing and the state of the nation. The World Health Organization  reported “an increase in ‘pandemic fatigue’ – people are feeling demotivated about following recommended behaviors to protect themselves and others from the virus” in an October Article. The New York Times also referred to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that the study “showed that depression rates spiked three times higher during the pandemic… 40 percent of American adults reported problems with anxiety, depression or substance abuse in late June.” This study is severely troubling because if more and more people are not following proper guidelines, which can be seen through the spike of the disease in many areas. 

With all of this information being presented, many of the rising cases can be traced to the growing trend of Americans going on overseas vacations according to a CNN article “Find Out Which Countries are Welcoming US Tourists Back.” People have been having large weddings and parties with the caveat of “we are wearing masks.” However, if you look into these photos, you will see people not wearing masks or properly social distancing. 

In addition, at many of these events, many people are taking off masks when taking photos, which is defeating the whole purpose of the masks. I will never understand the logic there. With eight months and counting in this pandemic, to quote the president at the Oct. 22 presidential debate, “[people are] learning to live with it” but also to quote former Vice President Biden, “[people are] learning to die with it.” This virus is severe, and we should still be taking it seriously. I, too, want this to be over, but not at the expense of others. The other day I went to the McDonalds in California, Maryland, to get some spicy nuggets, which are to die for, and saw a big group of cars and people in the parking lot next to it. Not one person was wearing a mask; if that happened on our campus, public safety would be called in seconds. I’m not alone with witnessing these events. In a Washington Post Article, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force told reporters after participating in a round table with Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.

“Over the last 24 hours, as we were here and we were in your grocery stores and in your restaurants and frankly, even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been,”. She was referring to her trip to North Dakota which has seen more coronavirus infections per capita than any other state and over the past month has experienced a stunning surge in hospitalizations and deaths.

As Americans, we think of the individual and not the collective and often do not consider  others when decisions are being made. In 2021, individuals need to stop that and think about others because, as has been seen throughout this pandemic when we do not, it can cost lives. This country is still in a pandemic; act like it, and tell others to act like it. It will surely save lives.

Election Thoughts: Are We There Yet?

Written By: Dylan Parham

Vote 2020

I want this to be over! This election cycle has felt as if it has been going on for years, and the pandemic has not made it feel any quicker. COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine and lockdowns have caused time to lose all meaning. This election cycle has been rough, and we always knew it would be rough, but this is ridiculous. With each month that passed, the only thing we could do was hold our breath and see what came next. 

These last weeks have been a prime example of this. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, opening a seat in the Supreme Court to fill, and then the President got COVID. The Presidential debate was a dumpster fire, to quote almost every news publication, and QAnon conspiracies are now a campaign talking point. With only days to go until Election Day, anything can happen. According to USAToday, “Election experts worry a prolonged outcome this year could set the stage for greater controversy – potentially attempts by candidates to invalidate the results.” That would mean this cycle could be messier and longer than usual. The finish line will not be Nov 3; it may be days or weeks past that. Many voters are already worried that their vote will not count or have lost hope in our electoral process; that scares me. 

It might be selfish to want this process to be over as soon as possible, but election fatigue is real. I am emotionally and mentally drained from this process, and I am not alone. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2016 found that “Nearly 6-in-10 Americans were worn out by the amount of election coverage.” In 2019 they did the same study and found that 66 percent of Americans had voter fatigue and were worn out by the news. However, what happens after the election will truly test our country and our democracy. We may be tired from this process, the Presidential candidates we have on the ballot may not be our ideal candidate, and you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we must have some trust in this process because when we don’t have some level of faith, we lose control of this fundamental right. 

These past years, rampant voter suppression has limited the vote of many people groups, mainly to Black and Brown people. When you see this, it can be discouraging; it discourages me.  

However, we must persist to ensure that everyone, no matter their political leaning, has their constitutional right to vote. I am exhausted, I want this process to be over and done, so I can think about my future and how it fits in with this election results. But not at the cost of losing sight of what truly matters, and what matters is that every American has their vote counted and voice heard; that you and I can have a direct impact on our future. So yes, I am exhausted, but I will still fight for what is right and just. To not lose sight of the finish line and the results that come at the end of it.

Damage to Black Lives Matter Street Murals: Accident or Vandalism?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

In September and August of 2020, as part of  peaceful protests in response to police brutality, artists took to the streets. All over the country, beautiful murals bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” were seen all around city streets. Unfortunately, on Oct. 18–not even 24 hours after a mural in Nashville was painted–it was discovered with black tire tracks and white paint splotches destroying the artwork. It is an unfortunate and disappointing event for the artists who spent so much time making the lovely artwork, and it is unclear what the next course of action should be.

This is not the first time murals supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement have been damaged. In cities such as Kansas City and Indianapolis, there have been similar reports of paint and tire tracks. Shortly after the mural in Indianapolis was painted on Aug. 1, Rebecca Robinson, the artist who painted the “L,” awoke to an email from an unknown sender. The message was simply, “It’s starting already.” Later that day, according to the Indianapolis Star, the damage to the murals was discovered. This damage was reported to police; however, without firm evidence, law enforcement could do nothing. The same was said for the mural in Nashville, Tennessee, which was damaged not even 24 hours after its completion . There were black tracks from large car tires that, according to  wsmv.com, appeared as though drivers purposely drove in circles over the paint. As with Indianapolis, reports were made to the Mayor’s office, but once again there was not enough evidence to rule it as intentional vandalism. Sgt. Jake Becchina of the Kansas City police department, said whether or not there is criminal intent is unclear.

With all this uncertainty and ambiguity from those in authority, citizens are left to draw their own conclusions, and public opinion seems to be swaying towards the idea that this damage was intentional. Harold Smith, one of the artists of the Kansas City mural that was damaged, said in a written statement, reported by Anna Spoerre of kansas.com that, “By vandalizing one of these murals … a message has been sent that, to some, black lives do not matter and some people are willing to resort to illegal, inhumane, and outright cruel means to send that message.” Brenda Ross, one of the organizers for the Nashville murals told wsmtv.com, “It’s a little disheartening but living in Nashville and knowing some of our neighbors, I’m not very shocked that it happened.”

As of now, it does not seem that there will be much action in terms of moving forward. Becchina claims that if more evidence is found, then legal processes will be pursued against the guilty parties, but who is to say if this will happen? The best thing for the country to do is to wait and see, but after so many murals have been damaged in such similar ways, can it really be said that it was an accident? If it was not, are the people of America willing to continue waiting and watching while peaceful protests against violence are defaced?