MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH AT HOME

DEALING WITH VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Helpful TIPS FOR PROMOTING POSITIVE MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

This webpage provides information and tips for coping with the dangers and stresses of online learning and work.

 

After reading this webpage, learners should be able to:

  • Learn in a physical and mental state that is comfortable and safe;
  • Learn self-regulation strategies for dealing with online learning;
  • Know about the physical dangers of excessive technological use;
  • Understand how to avoid injuries associated with computer use. 

Visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety for Important information, tips and checklists.
click here

Watch this video on how to setup an ergonomic-friendly work space at home. 

(SOURCE: CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY, MONTREAL)

click here

1. PHYSICAL SAFETY

Most people seldom associate technological use with long-term physical injury, however, more people should begin to take this topic seriously. 

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety,

“No matter how harmless these activities may seem, they do set the stage for injuries that can develop over time. While these activities are not particularly hazardous for a worker who does them only occasionally, the situation becomes more critical when done long periods every working day. It is very important to know that musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs), and specifically, repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) rarely originate from one event or a particular factor. As a rule they develop over time from a variety of factors.

Unknown author. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. July 4, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/risk_factors.html

A. PLACING YOUR COMPUTER MONITOR

The CCOHS recommends that you place your computer or laptop monitor either eye-level or at a 15 degree angle LOWER than eye level. 

Studies have shown that when a monitor is placed too high, it can cause several physical injuries.

For more information: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/monitor_positioning.html

B. EYE DISCOMFORT

According to the CCOHS

Eye discomfort symptoms may be caused by:

  • poor lighting
  • glare on a computer or tablet screen
  • poor quality computer or tablet screen (e.g., poor resolution, blurry image, etc.)
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor seating posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • dry air
  • air movement, or
  • a combination of these factors

Source: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/eye_discomfort.html

C. SITTING AT A DESK OR COMPUTER

According to the CCOHS,

PROLONGED SITTING:

Limited mobility contributes to injuries in the parts of the body responsible for movement: the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. Another factor is the steady, localized tension on certain regions of the body. The neck and lower back are the regions usually most affected. Why? Prolonged sitting:

  • reduces body movement making muscles more likely to pull, cramp or strain when stretched suddenly,
  • causes fatigue in the back and neck muscles by slowing the blood supply and puts high tension on the spine, especially in the low back or neck, and
  • causes a steady compression on the spinal discs that hinders their nutrition and can contribute to their premature degeneration.

SOLUTIONS:

  • Purchase an ergonomic office chair or learn about the most effective ways of sitting to avoid injury.
  • Reduce the amount of contact you have with hard edges (desk edge, chair edge, armrests.)
  • Sit in a neutral position with your back straight and your feet planted on a flat surface.

Source: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/sitting/sitting_overview.html

https://www.ontario.ca/page/computer-ergonomics#figure1

D. BREAKS AND STRETCHING

According to the CCOHS:

WHY IS STRETCHING IMPORTANT?

Because working on a computer requires very few changes in body position, problems may arise if early interventions in your work habits are not properly addressed.

TIPS WHEN WORKING FROM HOME

It is recommended that a person break for 5-10 minutes for every hour spent at a workstation. If possible, it is ideal to stand up and walk for this time. Some of these stretches can be done at the same time.

  • Vary the work tasks. Break up keyboarding tasks work by doing other job duties or tasks that involve moving around or changing body position. Try to stand up and move around.
  • Look away from the screen occasionally and focus your eyes on an object far away.
  • Take regular rest breaks to ease muscle aches, eye strain and stress.
  • Relax your muscles, stretch and change position.
  • Hold the stretch for a reasonable time (e.g., 10-20 seconds).
  • Breathe normally.
  • Do not bounce, pull/push excessively, or lock your joints.
  • You should feel a stretch, but not pain.
  • If you feel pain or severe discomfort, stop stretching. Ask your medical professional for advice.

STRETCHES YOU CAN DO

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/stretching.html

Source: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/stretching.html

E. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Not only can physical activity and exercise help us increase energy levels, get more and better sleep and increased our appetite, but it is also proven to decrease stress levels.

As of June of 2016, the Canadian Government recommends that we:

  • Be active at least 2.5 hours a week to achieve health benefits.
  • Focus on moderate to vigorous aerobic activity throughout each week, broken into sessions of 10 minutes or more.
  • Get stronger by adding activities that target your muscles and bones at least two days per week. 

More information on the Government of Canada webpage

PHYSICAL SAFETY: SUMMARIZED
health-at-home

2. MENTAL SAFETY

A large aspect of education is socialization, however, with the semester being held online, many challenges begin to surface, namely mental health issues. This section aims to address specific strategies that you can undertake to reduce stress and promote positive mental health. 

A. STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH ANXIETY

Anxiety is not something that can dealt with or prevented easily. However, there are certain strategies that you can adopt to reduce anxiety. Take a look at some information below.

1. Research studies have proven that more sleep can reduce anxiety levels (Meijer & van den Wittenboer, 2004)

2. As discussed earlier, physical activity has been proven to decrease stress levels, allow us to focus our mind and lays the foundation for a better sleep so that you can reduce anxiety levels.

3. For more information on Mental Health safety, check out this infographic created by the Government of Quebec.

Sources:

Meijer, A. M., & van den Wittenboer, G. L. H. (2004). The joint contribution of sleep, intelligence and motivation to school performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 95–106.

B. BREATHING EXERCISES

If ever you feel overwhelmed or stressed throughout the day, a simple, yet effective, exercise you can do to focus your mind and relax is this breathing exercise.

STEPS:

1. Place yourself somewhere quiet or put earphones in and play some music you like.

2. Close your eyes (to focus).

3. Breathe in for 5 seconds.

4. Breathe out for 5 seconds.

5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 for about 5 minutes or longer if needed.

 

C. SELF-AGENCY

An extremely important aspect in promoting a state of positive mental health is the role of self-agency. Self-agency can be crudely defined as the power you hold over yourself. When we feel in control of ourselves and our actions, we feel more equipped to manage the world around us.

Although not necessarily a simple task for all, some effective methods for increasing self-agency in your life are things such as:

  • Creating, organizing and updating a weekly (or daily) schedule
  • Listing and organizing goals (personal or academic)
  • Organizing your personal spaces (desk, bedroom, office, car, home)
  • Take action. If you have listed goals that you would like to achieve, acting on them will reinforce self-agency.
    • For example, if one of your goals was to eliminate negative influences in your life, an action to take may be to quit smoking or remove a person from your social circle.
    • Another example could be that if one of your goals was to improve your English language skills, an action to take could be to enroll yourself in an English as a Second Language course.

 

3. TIPS FOR MANAGING THE SEMESTER

As you are well aware, the Fall 2020 semester and all courses, services and extracurriculars will be mostly online. However, this situation is not unique to TAV College; around the world, students are experiencing the same unique learning challenge. With that said, a new demand is being imposed upon students around the globe, that is, students are now being asked to become self-regulated learners and indepdently take charge of their own educational outcomes.

Here are some well sourced and proven tips on how to effectively manage your semester:

*Note that these guidance tutorials are based on ideas from the textbook Educational Psychology, 7th Canadian edition. Pearson Canada. Woolfolk, A. E., Winne, P. H. & Perry, N. E. (2020). 

A. TIME MANAGEMENT

Time management refers to strategies for organizing your time within a day, week, month, year, etc. The most effective time management strategy is the use of a schedule.

HOW TO USE A SCHEDULE

Time blocks are used within a schedule to label what you will do within a timeframe. For example, if you are using a weekly schedule, on Monday, within the 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM time block, you may write that this time will be used for reviewing the English lesson that you learned in the morning.

 

The most effective time management

The most effective way to manage your time is to use multiple schedules. To do so, we propose the following:

1. Semester schedule (4 months)

Create a semester-long schedule, at the beginnning of the semester, to organize the most important dates within that timeframe. Using this system, you will be able to foresee how much time you have to prepare for important assignments, exams or projects.

 

2. Weekly schedule

Create weekly schedules to organize your time. Weekly schedules should take all aspects of your life into account. For example, schedule times for studying, working on assignments and reviewing lectures, but also, schedule time for socializing with friends, physical activity and engaging in a hobby that you enjoy.

 

3.  Daily schedule

Daily schedules are not favored by most as they tend to shift as a result of life’s unpredictability. Nonetheless, daily schedules can be excellent tool for self-displine and time management as it allows you to plan goals for your day and by extension, feel accomplished when those goals have been met or act as a reinforcer to be more disciplined the following day.

scheduling technologies

You can find many different tpyes of schedule or calendar-builder applications and software through a simple Google search. However, we recommend the following:

Write by hand!

Download the templates that we provide on this webpage and write down the dates and times that you need. Writing by hand allows your brain to focus more on the information you are writing through the physical action.

 

Google or Apple Calendar

Google (or Apple) Calendar is a free schedule-building software provided by Google that allows the user to switch from daily, weekly, monthly or annual schedules. These calendar software are also available as mobile applications and can synchronize with other applications available by the same provider. In other words, Google Calendar, for example, can synchronize with Google Contacts, therefore allowing multiple users to see each other’s calendar.

 

Download templates to help you organize your semester!

Examples of how to use the schedule organizers:

B. GOAL SETTING

Goals are specific targets that we want to accomplish. Goal setting is listing those goals in an organized manner. Goal setting helps us to not only organize our thoughts, but also, to list where we are and where we want to be with something.

Setting goals is related to higher success rates and improved performance (Latham, 2002). This is because goal setting is a form of cognitive (brain function) organization and also, a form of motivation.

TIPS FOR SETTING GOALS:
  • Be specific
  • Create short-term goals that are realistic
  • Set hard goals for yourself to reach, but not to the point where it causes stress
  • Revisit your goals and update if needed
  • Take away goals once you have accomplished them
EXAMPLE A OF GOAL IN YOUR CONTEXT:
  • It is Sunday morning, I know that I have a test coming up on Tuesday morning. I will set a goal today to study for 3 hours between 6:00 – 9:00 PM and then again tomorrow night at the same time.
    • I will review … from 6:00 – 8:00 PM and then I will review … from 8:00 – 9:00 PM

Source:

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.

C. HOW TO STIMULATE INTEREST

Sometimes the topic of what we are learning can seem dull or boring and you may find yourself having trouble focusing because your interest is simply not there.

A strategy that you can apply to the topic to stimulate interest is called “real world application,” also known as “authentic or problem-based learning.” This is a strategy that many teachers use in their courses, however, students can use it as well.

HOW TO APPLY THE STRATEGY

To stimulate your interest in a topic that isn’t interesting to you or doesn’t seem relevant, consider how the topic can be applied to a real world problem. Why does this work? This strategy works because you are then pairing new knowledge with knowledge that you already had, thus enhancing your understanding of the new information. Further, you are applying new information to something that is personal and familiar to you, which will peak your interest and help you retain the new information.

Examples:
  • New information: I am a student in the Early childhood education program and I have just learned about the positive effects of a bilingual education on children.
  • How can this be applied to my own life? My bestfriend has a two year old and is hesitant to introduce her child to a second language.  

AUTHOR OF THIS WEBPAGE:

Justin Hand-Gregory

Published: August 2, 2020

Contact: communications@tav.ca

Do you have questions or comments?