By Avery Alexander
For The Diamondback

Before turning to art, Jenny Sherman was feeling stuck. She was living at home, slogging through online classes and constantly tethered to social media.

The sophomore philosophy, politics and economics major turned to playing the guitar, sewing and jewelry making to cope with her stress.

“Everyone was so bored and borderline depressed because all we had was online school, we were all stuck at home with our families,” Sherman said. But, she reconciled “it’s time to explore yourself and your own hobbies.”

Like Sherman, others at this university have used creative outlets to cope with the stress they faced as a result of the pandemic and online learning.

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Dr. Colleen Byrne, a clinical professor and director of the psychology clinic at this university, said the outlets students used to cope with stress before are no longer available because of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, technology could be used to cope with stress, but now that students spend more time online, these coping methods can feel less satisfying, Byrne said.

“Sometimes coping or distraction can be playing a game, or watching YouTube, or using social media, but if you’re already on the computer all day long, that same screen time might not be relaxing or pleasantly distracting as it used to be,” Byrne said.

Sarita Miller, a sophomore neurobiology and physiology major, said she enjoys spending time away from online classes by painting.

“I think it accesses that creative side, and for me, I’ve always been a creative person, but a lot of times in school, I don’t have access to that as much, because I take a lot of science and math classes,” Miller said.

Sherman emphasized that online classes can negatively impact mental health in a way that creativity can soothe.

“It’s really hard to feel proud of yourself and feel like you’re doing a good job,” Sherman said. “With art and creativity it’s so different because it gives you a chance to be proud of yourself.”

[Finding artistic freedom: Senior artists share how their craft has developed at UMD]

Leah Kwayi, a sophomore psychology major, has painted on occasion before, but with more time and need during the pandemic she has thrown herself into this hobby.

“It’s just a time where you can sit and just exist and just create things… nothing’s required of me. It’s not an assignment or anything, it doesn’t feel like work,” Kwayi said.

Kwayi reflects on how art may continue to help her cope with stress even after the pandemic ends.

“It’s calming and it takes me away from that school mindset and I don’t have to be focusing on anything,” Kwayi said. “The motion of the acrylic spreading across the canvas, it’s calming.”