For many people, the pandemic has brought a change in priorities and a desire to improve overall personal wellness – a trend supported by the World Health Organization which is now emphasizing the importance of caring for your mental health now, more than ever. The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) has risen to support its communities by taking a holistic look at its Personal Enrichment offerings to find ways that these non-credit classes can improve people’s lives across multiple dimensions.
“A lot of people experiencing a shift in their mindset – including many of us at CSM – and we want to grow our programs by identifying those areas where people need to have a sense of overall wellness,” said CSM Director of Adult and Community Education Judi Ferrara. The curriculums targeted or being added include intellectual, physical, emotional, creative, spiritual, occupational, financial, environmental, and social wellness.
Current students are already seeing the benefits of this updated focus. Student Alicia Whitney, of Charles County, (pictured left) said that the mind-body connection fostered in CSM’s Wellness, Fitness, and Sports classes have led to improvements across her life.
“I’ve been able to make lifestyle changes by eating healthier, exercising consistently, and resolving several health issues as a result of the motivation, inspiration, and empowerment from the Personal Enrichment classes,” Whitney said. “Every month I’ve been able to find a class that not only addresses my health issues but gives me more self-discovery and personal growth.” She said she has taken more than 10 Personal Enrichment classes over Zoom, including Path to Wellness: Healing the Whole Self and Total Body Power Pump.”
New courses are also being developed to address wellness. For example, Juicing for Vitality, a new course offered this spring, will teach people to nourish their body promote optimum health, said Ferrara.
“I’m excited to share my love for juicing as a component to overall wellness and balance,” said Lisa Kelley, who will teach the class at Real Foods Studio in Leonardtown. “Students will learn signs to identify dehydration, inflammation, and an unhealthy microbiome. We will discuss key vitamins and nutrients that support common health issues, and choices we can make every day to nourish the body so it can function at its best.”
Susan Polsky, president of the Southern MD Bee Association, will teach a Beekeeping class at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus this spring and has found that interest in beekeeping has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. She noted that caring for bees helps people build a deeper connection with nature and can even be meditative.
“As you become more conscious of these living creatures you’re tending, you become more mindful of the earth’s health, and you develop a new awareness of the world around you,” she said. “Also, you must be focused when you’re working your bees. It breaks you away from all the other stresses that creep in.”
Even for people who aren’t making a big transformation in their lives, the pandemic likely brought smaller changes; according to a Pew Research Center survey, people saw new hobbies and more time at home as silver linings to the pandemic.
Cooking courses like CSM’s Winter Italian Cooking give options to those who are finding just enough extra time to level up their skills or favorite past times.
“I love Italian food, and the teacher makes the classes so much fun,” said Karen Young, of La Plata, who has taken a number of cooking classes with her husband William. “I’ve learned many things taking the classes, including the history of the country, and I’ve cooked many of the recipes at home.”
CSM’s Personal Enrichment classes can also help you reach new skill levels in hobbies you may have picked up during the pandemic, from watercolor painting to fly fishing, shared Ferrara. And, if you brought home a new pet recently, CSM offers courses such as Pet CPR & First Aid and Novice Dog Tricks to help you care for and enjoy your pet.
“People are trying to get motivated again,” she said. “They are taking a look at themselves internally, and we are looking at what we can offer that person.”
For others, getting control of the pandemic means not a change but a return to social activity. Ferrara said along with bringing students back to the classroom, CSM will also soon reintroduce travel to the class schedule. Day trips, such as a tour to explore some of the historic lighthouses of Southern Maryland and an Italian sight-seeing day in D.C., both offered this May, will give people the opportunity to venture out in a controlled and safe way. For those excited to plan parties in 2022, classes such as Craft Cocktails and BBQ Bootcamp will help to refresh their hosting skills.
“A lot of people are yearning to be social, to get away from the computer and meet new people,” said CSM Program Coordinator Shaunda Holt. “Our new programs really embrace experiences.”
Of course, not everyone feels comfortable attending in-person events yet. For them, CSM will continue offering a wide variety of virtual classes, which provide a way to learn and interact from the comfort and safety of home. Courses such as Exercise Tips: Creating Workouts with Your Home Exercise Equipment have been specifically designed to maximize the benefits and opportunities that come from learning from home.
For more information on CSM Personal Enrichment classes, visit, https://www.csmd.edu/programs-courses/non-credit/personal-enrichment/index.html.