As the landscape of education undergoes a digital transformation, educators find themselves navigating the challenges of online teaching with unprecedented intensity. In this new era of virtual classrooms, the spotlight is not only on adapting to technological shifts but also on the well-being of educators themselves.
Based on results from a study that looked into the effects of online education on teachers, 82 percent of respondents reported experiencing physical issues like neck pain, back pain, headache, and eye strain, while a further 92 percent faced mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and loneliness.
To avoid negative impacts on the quality of education, it’s paramount for educators to prioritize their mental well-being, eye health, and physical condition. In this article, we’ll go through practical tips that educators can use to nurture their overall health and foster resilience in the online learning era.
Prioritizing physical health during remote learning is crucial for educators as it directly impacts their overall well-being and effectiveness. Long hours in front of screens can lead to physical strain and discomfort, so here are a few things you can incorporate into your routine to maintain physical wellness.
Make movement a habit
One study found regular physical activity is able to protect against the development of emotional problems among teachers in remote learning settings, regardless of the level of activity. To encourage this, we recommend taking breaks, even short ones, dedicated to simple exercises such as walking or stretching.
Get enough sleep
The quality of your sleep affects stress hormones, your immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and even your cognitive performance. As such, it’s important to keep a consistent sleep schedule that allows you to get adequate rest. Studies suggest aiming for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep to fully recharge your body.
Addressing vision and eye health is vital for educators during online modes of instruction to prevent digital eye strain and related discomfort. Prolonged screen exposure can lead to symptoms like eye fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision. Below are a few tips to minimize these effects.
Take screen breaks
Management options for digital eye strain include practicing the 20-20-20 rule coined in 1991 by optometrist Dr. Jeff Anshel. This rule states that you should take breaks from screen use every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Having artificial tears like Visine on hand can also be helpful for relieving dry eyes resulting from lengthy screen time.
Check your prescription
For educators who use prescription glasses or contact lenses, make sure that your prescription is up to date, otherwise, you risk experiencing worse eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision. If you prefer wearing contact lenses, it’s best to use brands like Biofinity EW Contact Lenses which are made with silicone hydrogel that allow oxygen to pass through to your eyes for comfort even when worn for extended periods. Glasses users, on the other hand, can check out eyeglasses that have blue light filters that reduce glare and can help minimize digital eye strain symptoms.
The challenges of remote instruction, such as increased screen time, isolation, and adapting to new technologies, can take a toll on mental health. By maintaining mental well-being, educators are better equipped to handle stress, engage with students, and create a positive learning environment.
While social-emotional learning (SEL) has been widely implemented in educational settings for the benefits it gives to students, some studies show that educators also yield improved social-emotional competencies through SEL. Institutions that prioritize SEL and encourage teachers to seek support when needed have happier, more satisfied educators who are better able to handle the demands of teaching online.
Having a work-life balance is critical for mental health, increasing productivity, and avoiding burnout. Attaining this balance begins with setting boundaries. This entails clearly communicating your online and offline hours, completely unplugging after work hours, and sticking to a routine to separate work and home life.
In the pursuit of cultivating resilient and effective educators, the emphasis must extend beyond lesson plans and grading, encompassing a holistic approach that nurtures the health and vitality of those dedicated to shaping the minds of tomorrow.