Small Changes, Big Rewards: How to Prioritize Physical Health During the School Year

While many students have already started their school year, I still have a few weeks left before starting my final year. Self-care is something I prioritize and have written about in the past, yet I tend to ignore another health issue during the school year. Physical health, in terms of what I do while working on schoolwork, is severely lacking. Here are some issues I’ve noticed in my routine and ways to fix them:

Ergonomics

Desk setup is crucial when spending hours on the computer, and while convenient, laptops tend to make proper setup difficult to achieve. The Mayo Clinic suggests placing monitors at an arm’s length away and at eye level, keeping wrists straight and hands at or below the elbow level, and adjusting chair height so your knees and hips are even. Looking at my setup while typing this, my monitor is about a foot too low and my chair should be higher, but my desk does not allow for this. It’s even worse at the desks I share with coworkers, where four of us move back and forth throughout the day. At these shared workspaces and others shared at your home, having some aspect of an ergonomic setup that can be undone when you leave is ideal. At home, Amazon boxes raise my laptop to an acceptable height and a wireless keyboard is on its way to help with a better setup.

Eyestrain

Eyestrain is a major issue, particularly now as life remains primarily online while the pandemic continues. This is also one area where I’ve told myself that eyestrain is normal and expected in an online environment, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Many apps already have dark mode available in their settings. By changing as many apps as possible to use the dark mode in the proper situations, you reduce the chances of straining your eyes for excessive periods of time.

Sleeplessness caused by blue light is another eye issue that I experience, especially when trying to squeeze as much schoolwork in after already working all day. Any newer computer should have an option to filter blue light. To see how to activate it, check out this Digital Trends article. If you share computers with family members or coworkers and can’t use the blue light filter, you can invest in a pair of blue light filtering glasses. These simple glasses can be a lifesaver, especially if you bounce across computers all day long. I have yet to find the best way to keep my glasses from fogging up while wearing a mask, but my pair has worked wonders when I don’t have to wear a mask.

General Mobility

Weekend warriors, those who tend to do most of the week’s work on the weekend, can be extremely susceptible to planting down in a single spot for hours on end. Telling yourself to work for just ten more minutes can quickly turn into an hour with no breaks. I’m terrible at this, especially when working at a coffee shop (pre-pandemic, anyways) without anyone to watch my stuff. To overcome this at home, I set a timer across the room (no phone or Alexa/Siri here) so that I’m forced to get up and stretch my legs. I’m also considering using this time to do some sort of 30-day challenge to help offset the Quarantine 15 gained while working from home, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.

Whether small or large, adding these changes to your school routine will hopefully decrease physical discomfort and increase productivity. Do you have other quick and easy ways to prioritize physical health while in school?


Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.

Photo by Samule Sun on Unsplash

Categories: advice, self-care

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