Increased screentime, poor diets and staying inside cause students to make changes
During a recent daily walk with her dog, history and religion teacher Kimberly Rogers spotted a falcon soaring above her, which brought a smile to her face. Her neighborhood strolls help her to find beauty in a time of crisis.
Quarantine has forced many to make lifestyle changes and try to avoid the long-term effects that could potentially occur from a sedentary lifestyle, looking at screens for too long and snacking excessively.
“This pandemic has significantly disrupted my life, especially my relationships with friends, family, my students and my colleagues,” Rogers said. “[However,] what is interesting about what is going on right now is that everyone is in the same boat. If I find myself feeling lonely, I know that I am experiencing what a large percentage of the world is also experiencing. This has the potential to crack us all open to our common humanity.”
Online schooling has given way to unhealthy practices. Students are spending a considerably larger amount of time looking at screens for online classes and entertainment purposes. According to a May 11 poll of 143 students, 73 percent of students are worried about eye strain from looking at screens too much as a result of online school.
“Switching to online school due to the global pandemic has certainly not been ideal for a person like me who suffers from chronic migraines,” sophomore Natalie Parker said. “The classes I take force me to participate by staring at screens, which strains my eyes for hours on end.”
To address eye strain, some students have purchased glasses that block or filter the blue light that is emitted from digital screens. Several high-end companies began offering the glasses after they gained popularity in the past few years. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, blue light can increase the risk of macular degeneration as well as other vision complications.
“I like to wear blue light glasses to prevent the long-term effects screens have on my health,” Parker said. “I feel more comfortable when I wear them during distance learning knowing that the hours I’m spending on my computer aren’t significantly damaging my vision.”
Additionally, quarantine can make finding ways to exercise difficult with gyms closed and school sports canceled. Freshmen Layne Scheinberg has found ways to prepare for her upcoming volleyball season.
“I’ll try to run or lift every day and attend online practices twice a week,” Scheinberg said. “It’s important to me because I want to stay in shape and not come back to volleyball season not having the skills I used to have.”
While some are occupied with at-home workouts provided by their coaches, others have found ways to stay active and connect with nature on their own.
“Getting fresh air is crucial, and I have found that running, biking, meditating or simply studying outside is very beneficial to my mental health,” Parker said. “I feel I have spent more time outside during quarantine than I ever did before. Spending more time outside is definitely something I would like to continue doing when quarantine is over.”
Another issue that seems to be occurring globally is overeating as a result of boredom and an overabundance of food in the house. Excessive snacking has led many to watch their eating and experiment with dieting. The same poll showed 55 percent of students have been excessively snacking and 64 percent are worried about finding ways to stay active during quarantine.
“I’m eating more than I should, but I try to eat healthy foods like homemade soups and salads,” Rogers said. “I am trying to avoid stress eating sweets, but am a great believer in the medicinal value of dark chocolate.”
In these uncertain and stressful times, Rogers advises focusing on self-compassion. After listening to a podcast by Dr. Kristen Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas, she learned that it is important to check in with yourself several times a day to see how you’re feeling.
“These are stressful times, so if you find yourself feeling anxious, give yourself a break,” Rogers said. “It’s really not good to ignore or suppress our stress, loneliness, boredom, etc. [Alternatively,] by being mindful of what we are actually feeling, we can keep from getting swept away by the negative feelings.”
Parker agrees, but she recommends to care for yourself by making an effort to maintain relationships. She believes it is critical for our mental health during this time to keep in touch using methods such as the video communication platform Zoom or spending time together outside from distance.
“I am a firm believer that 55 percent of communication is visual, even if you are 6 feet apart or on Zoom,” Parker said. “Whether I’m doing distance yoga with my friends, setting up a picnic in one of our backyards, or watching movies on lawn chairs, spending time outside is such fun.”
School Nurse Marcia Biggs offers a professional standpoint as to why she is concerned for teenagers’ health during quarantine.
“My concerns would be the obvious,” Biggs said. “Too much screen time is hard on eyes, brain, and body mechanics, [along with] not enough physical activity and too much snacking.”
The advice Biggs has for students is to take frequent breaks from screens. She recommends staying active in between classes and refraining from buying junk food.
“When not online for class, do something away from screens,” Biggs said. “No TV, computer, video games, etc. Interact with your family or furry friends. Try a puzzle. Listen to music. Take a nap in the shade. Rest your weary eyes and body. Try riding a bike. Walking in the neighborhood. Mow the yard. Plant a garden. Color in a coloring book. Have a tea party with a younger sibling or your favorite stuffed animals. No really, be a kid. Who is watching? No one. Enjoy the simple things. Your body will thank you for it.”
Through trying to make better eating choices, staying active and preventing spending too much time staring at screens, the community is combating the negative effects quarantine has on our well-being.
“In a global moment like this, there are millions of things that we can choose to worry about, yet the most intelligent and most powerful decision is to simply surrender,” Parker said. “It is to accept life and our current situation and adapt. We must realize that our fear is not serving us. At this time we must trust life and trust God and the plan He has for us.”