After 10 or so weeks of learning via Zoom without a break, my brain has sufficiently turned into goo. My usual time set aside for random fun activities has been sapped away by the hours I spend staring at a computer screen typing paper after paper. My spirit is drained by the exhausting effort it takes to stay enthused while my professor’s voice turns into a garbled robotic sound. Simply put, I’m on the edge of burnout. 

One of the few ways I’ve been able to weather the storm is by taking up an old passion that’ll make me sound like I’m from the dinosaurs’ era: reading books. Before the cries of “I already read enough for classes; how could I possibly make time for it,” I urge you to hear me out and then render your verdict. Reading books can be an escape from reality in these stressful times, as well as an opportunity to rest your eyes from staring at your computer screen. 

Thus far, throughout the pandemic, I’ve struggled like so many others to find responsible ways to spend my time without putting my loved ones at risk. Additionally, the intensity of my anxiety has been compounded by a never-ending cycle of assignments and lectures since classes began. Like many students experiencing distance learning, my average time spent on my computer shot up to over nine to 10 hours a day.

After about a couple of weeks in, my mental health was taking hits. I desperately tried to find ways to distance myself from my computer and relax from the overwhelming amount of work. Before COVID-19 struck, I’d usually join a friend on a walk or grab some lunch at the Dobbs Common Table with friends, but that was no longer possible. Out of options, I picked up a book called “Shōgun” by James Clavell. As I started to read, my mind transported into another realm — distant from cranky professors’ concerns and impending deadlines. 

For the first time this semester, reading provided me the escape I’d so desperately been looking for. I could finally feel at ease and relax — even if it was just for an hour or so. I soon began planning my days to ensure I always had time at the end of each school day to read and give my computer a break. I started to urge my friends to take some time out of their days and take a moment to read — they too at least garnered momentary relief.

Research has shown the adverse effects of digital isolation during the pandemic, a phenomenon commonly known as “Zoom fatigue.” Having meetings in places we are meant to relax and constantly staring at screens coupled with the stresses of social isolation has had a devastating effect on mental health. For those of you experiencing Zoom fatigue, I implore you to consider the benefits of reading a book. The positive impact of reading can ease stress, be a good aid for sleeping and potentially counter feelings of depression.

Amid copious amounts of readings, papers and asynchronous lectures — I’m urging you to pick up a book. It doesn’t need to be anything long or challenging. Just choose something that sounds interesting, and hopefully, it will give you the chance to think about something else. I know reading will not fully alleviate worsening mental health caused by the pandemic and the shortened semester. Other methods, such as increasing mental health resources and implementing breaks throughout the semester, must be done by the University to reduce Zoom fatigue and heightened stress. However, for the time being, I encourage you to carve out some time and pick up a book.  

Distance learning reinvigorated my old love for reading. It inspired me to reenter the world of novels that blot out the pressing concerns of life. This pandemic has made us all a bit too close to our computers, stressed from our instability to see our loved ones and the taxing nature of distance learning. If anything, this should motivate you to pick up a book and escape, even if for just a moment. 

Demetrios Mammas (23C) is from Atlanta.