By Elaina Palada

During fall quarter, I sometimes found myself struggling to maintain the energy required to manage a full schedule of practicing, school work, and participating in online classes. Zoom exhaustion is very real. If you have found your attention span has been affected recently, you are not alone! Looking ahead to winter quarter, it’s important to make time in your schedule for things that make you happy, because that supports your academic success! With that in mind, here are some music-specific suggestions to help you ground yourself in the coming weeks:

Maintain a Daily Routine

Sticking to a daily routine that works for you can make a huge difference, especially when classes are meeting in a variety of modalities. Simple checklists can work wonders to bolster your productivity and progress (and it feels so satisfying to cross things off!).

Making lists can be incredibly helpful with scheduling your practice sessions, too. Currently, Bienen School students are using assigned practice rooms as a safety precaution during the pandemic, so at the beginning of each week, those with whom I share a practice space provide the times they would like to practice. We plan our practice time out so that we can ensure there’s enough time for proper sanitization and ventilation, and that everyone who needs time gets it.

At the beginning of the school year, I also created a practice journal, and it has been instrumental in helping me maintain a steady amount of practice hours and reach my goals. Find ways to break up your practice so you are not doing it all at once and tiring yourself out mentally and physically.

A balanced routine is also one that includes breaks and time to get up and stretch! During winter break, it can be helpful to continue a daily routine so that you feel productive and prepped for the winter quarter.

Explore the NU Library Music Database and the Davee Media Library

The Northwestern University libraries and Bienen’s Davee Media Library are great resources for students! Through the NU library, we have memberships to the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Naxos, and much more. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has also created their own platform for people to watch performances (links below). With just a click of a button, you can have access to hundreds of high-quality recordings and videos. This can be a great way to watch performances over break with friends. Whether you are doing research or just looking to enjoy a virtual concert, these platforms have something for everyone!

Create a playlist

Looking to expand your music palette? Make a playlist! There can be a playlist for any occasion, and it’s fun to listen to artists and genres that you may not have listened to before. One suggestion is to create a new playlist every month. You can also create playlists for studying, exercising, relaxing, reading, and practically anything else. I find that having a specific playlist for studying helps me get in a more focused mindset. Background music also makes my studio apartment feel less lonely, and transforms the space into whatever it needs to be. You also can search through Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube for playlists from other people. With the festive season also approaching, it can be fun to find mash-ups of holiday and classical favorites like this: All I Want for Christmas is Erlkönig

Social Interaction

When asking my classmates about what they do to keep themselves healthy and happy, many of their answers mentioned human connection. With limited in-person activity, it is easy to feel isolated from others and focus on all the things we cannot do. Try holding a virtual movie or concert watch party, join a book club, play games like Among Us, or do an online puzzle. You could also schedule an ongoing weekly Zoom hangout or jam session with friends. It is super important to check-in with your friends and remind ourselves that we’re not alone. More suggestions on interactive activities are available on Northwestern’s Campus Life website.

Our health and safety is the utmost priority, and taking care of your well-being will help you pick up right where you left off during winter quarter! Do not be afraid to reach out to the people around you during these tough times. Stay safe and enjoy your break; we’re “N” this together!

Here are additional resources:

Taking Care of Your Mental Health during COVID-19
Northwestern Counseling and Psychological Services

Elaina Palada is a master's flute student at the Bienen School of Music.


  • pandemic