Six Months Into Pandemic: Southern Marylanders Find Stress Relief, Social Interaction and Fun with CSM’s Personal Enrichment Classes

Chesapeake Beach resident Shelly Gooding took a non-credit digital photography class for fun over the summer and called it a ‘life-changer.’

As Southern Maryland enters into its sixth month of battling the coronavirus, it is hard to find someone whose stress and anxiety levels have not been impacted by the pandemic. For that reason, more and more health experts are encouraging people to engage in self-care by being purposeful in creating social interactions for themselves and by engaging in both mental and physical exercises.

“When you can take the time to engage in education at your leisure, it can bring joy and satisfaction to your life,” said CSM Director of Adult and Community Education Judi Ferrara. “Now more than ever, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) understands the importance of providing a release – a distraction – an opportunity – for our communities to help them cope with the collective trauma that has occurred to all of us.”

“The COVID pandemic has truly been a difficult time for most of us,” confirmed June Becker, LCSW-C, ACHt and co-owner at Journeys Holistic Therapy Group in St. Mary’s County. “The stressors involved in even the simplest tasks like getting groceries, are real. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and mood swings are more common now than I can ever remember during my years of private practice. My mantra to all my clients is increasing self-care! Along with good nutrition, fresh air and exercise, stimulating your brain by learning a new skill or following a new interest can be very helpful. CSM offers excellent opportunities to do just that.”

CSM has put robust personal enrichment programs in place that allow students to have fun learning virtually – if only for an hour a week. Personal Enrichment classes are designed to offer the community an opportunity to participate in education at their leisure. Courses are offered to peak interest and allow individuals to hone in on skills that they currently have or wish to learn. Courses like yoga and nutrition education help people step away from the at-home office environment and relieve some of the daily stress and anxiety we feel from being on Zoom or email all day and for some, caring for children while they are home from school, shared Ferrara.

“While we often think of continuing education as earning a degree or certificate, the intention or goal is different with personal enrichment,” added Ferrara. “Students can take classes like music and digital photography just for fun. And many classes we offer are geared toward the 50 and older population, but certainly not limited to them.” 

Psychology Today reported on the importance of staying sharp as we age in a Aug. 24 blog. Key among the four steps in the blog was ‘exercising our brain.’

“It’s not just our body that needs consistent workouts,” wrote Ryan Daley, Jaclyn Ford, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Kensinger, Ph.D. “Our brain may not actually be a muscle, but it can be useful to think about it as one, insofar as it needs constant strengthening in order to stay at peak function. The way to strengthen the brain? Use it, and give it challenges. Don’t just stick with familiar tasks. Try something new: Study a new language, take an art class, or learn a new craft, discover how to cook a new type of cuisine, or embrace a new type of technology.”

Chesapeake Beach resident Shelly Gooding took a non-credit digital photography class for fun over the summer and called it a ‘life-changer.’

“The class changed the direction of my career,” said Gooding, an emergency management professional. “Seriously, I am starting my own business in photography and it is because of that class. The instructor was wonderful – very knowledgeable, great assignments and feedback, great cohorts. I learned so much.

“I’ve taken what I learned in the class into additional training,” she continued. “I can’t put my camera away. It was such a wonderful experience and a great gift to myself. Learning online is easy at CSM.”

La Plata resident Cara Fogarty agrees.

“I’ve long wanted to take the strength and conditioning class but between work and meetings, it was hard to fit it in,” echoed Fogarty. “Now, with the class offered virtually, it’s easy for me to attend. I have really enjoyed being able to exercise in the comfort of my home, yet not be alone.”

CSM’s non-credit personal enrichment classes are just the right kind of solid option for parents who are wrestling with how to keep their students balanced academically, socially and emotionally this fall, according to a recent story in U.S. News and World Report.

A CSM Food, Nutrition and Health course improved Helen’s health and confidence.

This summer, Heather Maggard’s daughter Helen took CSM’s Food, Nutrition and Health course and said the experience improved her daughter’s confidence.

“My daughter had a wonderful experience, due in large part to the knowledgeable, positive, and personalized instruction that was offered by CSM’s Wellness, Fitness and Aquatics staff, said Maggard.

“My daughter learned about major muscle groups and developed an exercise routine to build strength and endurance. She also learned about macronutrients and how to pair food groups to get the most energy and nutrition from her meals.

“She had the opportunity to research and choose a healthy recipe and then cook her chosen meal virtually alongside her instructor, Deanna Rothstein,” the Leonardtwon mom continued. “Over the course of the lessons, my daughter gained knowledge related to nutrition and fitness, and gained confidence in her ability to make healthy choices, and inspiration to keep working toward her fitness goals.”

If you are interested in finding a new skill or hobby, polishing old ones, or just find a way to balance your day, learn more about CSM’s interest-based personal enrichment classes, workshops and activities by visiting online at: https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/personal-enrichment/.

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