Everything But The Bagel: We need to find some tech-free activities. Like now.

How to limit screen time and take a break from our phones in quarantine.

Welcome to Everything But The Bagel, a weekly space to make you feel a little less stressed, and a little more grounded, just with writing instead of cream cheese. By diving deeper into the reality of life as a Trojan, Everything But The Bagel will help you get through the ups and downs of your college experience. Through relatable anecdotes, interviews, and my curated edit of recommendations, this newsletter will remind you that you are at this school for a reason, further helping you make the most of your time at ‘SC.

Dear Beautiful, Imperfect, Intelligent Humans,

While the first day of a new month tends to bring optimism and a breath of fresh air, this April 1st seems different than the previous ones. As always, I welcome and encourage your questions. But this afternoon I have a pressing question that I just have to ask you. Am I alone in the headache that comes along every weekday between 3:34 and 4:47 PM? I hope I am, but probably not.

After I wake up and drink as many espresso shots as my body can handle, I sit down and open up my laptop. Before I know it, I am hopping off a zoom call to write a story on google drive. When I am done with the story I FaceTime a friend, follow a workout on my laptop, and then jump on another zoom. Technology overload like never before, one could say. But maybe this endless screen time is why my head starts to throb every afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the ways in which the world has creatively tapped into technology for a zoom “happy hour” and family reunions is incredible. But we have to remember that the reality of these virtual interactions have consequences that an in-person brunch or workout do not have. In other words, we need to take it upon ourselves to limit our screen times and seek out tech-free activities during this technology-filled pandemic.

Shilagh Mirgain, a health psychologist at the University of Wisconsin Madison, has done extensive research on the link between a break in technology and mental health benefits. Mirgain has found that taking a break from technology increases productivity and focus, physical health, self-worth, and reduces stress, among many other perks. Mirgain is one of many psychologists who has researched this correlation, as we are living in a world where technology seems to dominate every realm of life as we know it.

So here is a list of technology-free games, activities, pastimes and more that I hope will help you adapt to this new reality and monitor your screen time. But first things first, I know how hard it can be to un-plug despite the benefits. So step number one is turning your phone on airplane mode, or even better, leaving your phone in another room or on another floor, if you have the flexibility. You will be surprised how lazy you are to go get it. Before you know it, you just spent five hours phone-free.

  1. READ. READ. READ. (I am almost done with Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. I can’t put it down!)
  2. Puzzle time baby. They engage your brain and problem solving skills. Like algebra but more fun.
  3. Bake––just try not to eat it all. Drop off cookies at your local hospital or fire station. Try to practice mindful eating, and enjoy each bite. Here is a great podcast to help you do that.
  4. Cook a recipe by following an Instagram account or cook book. Holistic Health Counselor Pamela Salzman has nutritious and flavorful recipes and goes live everyday at 12 p.m. PST where viewers can follow along!
  5. Make a journal or blog. Start by setting a timer and write free hand. Just 15 or 20 minutes. You will be amazed what was on your mind. 
  6. Make a homemade candle or essential oil diffuser. 
  7. Meditate. 
  8. Do a face mask.
  9. Play a board game or card game. Some of my all-time favorites are Sorry!, Clue, and Cards Against Humanity. Can’t forget Old Maid. You can even get creative and play with friends over zoom!
  10. Take a bath. 
  11. Organize your kitchen, closet or bathroom. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and productivity.
  12. Get all dressed up for absolutely no reason at all. 
  13. Make a homemade bath bomb. 
  14. Have a dance party! And only use your phone to play the music. Because there’s nothing like a burst of cardio for your mid-morning zoom break.
  15. Find joy in the little things. The smell of your coffee, the fresh air on your walk, or the extra time with family. 

I encourage you to give some of these a try. As always, let me know which pastimes you enjoy and if I forgot any on my list!

Wishing you all a week full of puzzles, screen-monitoring, and laughter––lots of laughter.


Now here’s some of my favorite things from this week:


“Do not allow your loneliness to lower your standards. Read that again.” -Mary Kate

While this quote normally pertains to relationships and refraining from sending the text to your toxic ex, I think we can apply this message to our new reality. Quite literally, we are all experiencing loneliness to some extent in our day to day lives. When I think of standards in this context, it leads me to think of my standards for nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, and purpose throughout my day. Of course, don’t send the snapchat––we’ve all been there, and it never ends well. But use this quote as inspiration to keep your standards for your health and wellness intact––especially in times like these. Have the apple over the cookie. Pick the book before bed over the news broadcast. You know the drill. And you know the benefits.


As promised, I want to give you all plenty of content to digest every week to keep you busy, informed, and engaged during these unprecedented times. The first digest of the week is an article about how to maintain a healthy news diet and making sure you “don’t go down the rabbit hole” of information overload. Also known as an anxiety spiral.

Secondly, I have been turning to music throughout the day to help increase my mood and even simulate one of my favorite work environments: an afternoon coffee shop. Here are some of my go-tos:

For Mornings:

Jazzy Morning – Spotify

Productive Morning – Spotify

Chill Hits – Spotify

Work Time:

Work From Home

French Jazz/Bossa Nova – Bela Schwartz

Focus Flow

Sleepy Time:


Night Rain

Jazz for Sleep

Nature Noise


While this is something that admittedly challenges me everyday, this week I am working on accepting that I don’t know what I don’t know. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, weird, scary and, well, uncertain. But the practice of gratitude can help calm that endless anxiety spiral. Every morning I make sure to write down three things I am grateful for and three things that would make the day great. At the end of the day I reflect on these thoughts and see what I can do better tomorrow. I know I have mentioned it before, but The Five Minute Journal makes it easy to do this all in one space. I also try to meditate at least three times a week to clear my headspace and tune into my thoughts.


Every week, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have that could spark discussion/ bring awareness to our community. Just remember: No question is a dumb one.

Write to me here:

Email: ellakatz@usc.edu

Twitter: ellakatz20

Instagram: ellaakatz