Digital Wellbeing – Relieve the stresses of sitting at your computer all day.

If you have suddenly pivoted to teaching online and are spending hours in online meetings, making videos and having screen chats you may well be finding your body is complaining.

Tell-tale symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • back pain
  • tension in your neck
  • sore and tight shoulders
  • sore bottom from sitting all day
  • aching, tired eyes
  • suddenly not sleeping well

Below are some ideas for your online teaching wellbeing. Many will sound very obvious and they are. It is, however, harder to put them into practice. Strategies and ideas only work if you use them. It can be as simple as deciding on a plan of action and taking that action.

1.Take frequent breaks

There are many options and ‘formula’s for success here. The challenge is when you are in the ‘flow’ or even ‘the thick of it’ time can get away from you. Rowie McEvoy, from Max International College, suggests doing 10 seconds of huffy puffy exercise every 15 minutes. Lauren Parsons, health & wellbeing specialist, recommends to ‘Snack on Exercise’ 1 minute four times a day. Other ideas include holding a dance party at 10.30am and 2:30pm each day or do some form of a movement break every 30 minutes. Whatever you choose, the key is to set your phone alarm or a timer to ensure you remember, and then, as the Nike slogan says, “Just Do It!”

2. Check your posture

Simple corrections to your posture can help. Sit with your feet flat on the floor approximately hip width apart. Avoid crossing your ankles or knees as this will limit blood flow and alter your posture, causing more stress.
Keep your knees slightly lower than your hips so the pelvis tips so and you are off your coccyx or tailbone. This will allow you to relax your shoulders and neck muscles more.

If you find yourself slouching against the back of the chair, wiggle forward a few centimeters.

Relax your shoulders while you type. Often people hunch over and this causes strain in the shoulder joints.

3. Change your position

Whist many automatically sit to type and work, there are alternatives. Personally, I love my stand up desk. It does not need to be anything fancy, a sturdy box or coffee table on top your desk or table with your laptop or keyboard and screen on top. Table height should be at or slightly below elbow height, and your elbows are recommended to be at a 90 degrees angle to the floor. The ideal position for your screen is 50-70cm from your face.

Just as sitting all day is not ideal, nor is standing. Alternate between the two if you are able.

Other ideas include using a yoga/swiss ball or an ergonomic chair.

4. Check your lighting

If you are over 25 years old, you are more likely to have a high light need when it comes to reading and learning, according to researchers Rita and Kenneth Dunn. Natural light is the best and this is not always possible. Use warmer bulbs in your household lamps and lights and adjust the screen brightness. Avoid work spaces with fluorescent tubes if possible.

5. Exercises to counteract computer work

Regular movement is important when you are working and looking at a screen all day. Try a couple of these:

  • Chest opener – stand in good posture. Raise your arms so your elbows are at 90 degrees, (the I surrender position) with your elbows in direct line to your shoulders. Slowly move your elbows back squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat several times.
  • Rag doll pose – stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend forward from your waist, keeping your spine straight and hold opposite elbows. Allow your head and elbows to relax towards the floor.
  • Spinal twist – sitting in your chair, with your feet flat on the floor, twist your left arm to hold onto the right side of the chair back, simultaneously turning your torso the right. Relax your shoulders. Hold and breathe for 3 breath cycles. Repeat on the other side.
  • Back bend – stand with good posture, with your hands on your hips. Supporting your back with your hands lean backwards and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat. Ensure you keep your feet flat on the floor.
  1. 6. Look after your eyes

In a physical classroom with students, you will be varying your eye focal distances frequently. Keeping your eyes at the same fixed distance for long periods of time is not recommended for great eye health. Ensure you look up from your computer every 15-20 minutes and look out to something far in the distance for 15-20 seconds.

If your eyes are sore, rub your hands together vigorously until your palms are hot and place your cupped hands over your closed eyes. Remember to take your glasses off first! Hold for 15 – 20 seconds and when required.

Finally, your wellbeing as a teacher is paramount for you to deliver great energy over a screen. Take some time to consider how you will look after yourself over the next week and put some of these small steps into place.

“With better daily awareness, comes better daily choices, which leads to better daily results.”  Robin Sharma

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Published on Thursday, April 23rd, 2020, under Personal, Teacher Effectiveness

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

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