Health at home
According to UNESCO, approximately 80% of the world’s student population is receiving an online education during the 2020 school year due to the pandemic. A survey conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that out of 50,000 employed before COVID-19, half are now working from home, 35.2% of which were commuting and are now remote. A little more than 10% were laid off.
The global shift to online learning and telecommuting for work poses challenges to human health. Luckily, there are also verifiable ways to combat these issues as we adapt. One example of the impact increased screen time has on our bodies can be seen with our own eyes.
Long periods of screen engagement leads to computer vision syndrome, according to the Harvard Health Publishing. The symptoms include: eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, headaches and pain in the neck and back. The brightness of your screen and its proximity to you are major factors of eyestrain.
A study by the University of Haifa and Assuta Sleep Clinic found that screens emit high levels of short-wavelength visible light, which is blue on the Visible Light Spectrum. This wavelength is able to decrease melatonin production in the body, the hormone that helps us sleep. Screen time before bed interrupts our circadian rhythm, also known as the natural wake-sleep regulator. It shortens REM cycle, or the propensity to dream, which creates a restless night, according to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To help prevent and treat computer vision syndrome, experts suggest adjusting device settings, repositioning equipment and reimaging your immediate environment.
A scientific study for Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics suggests sitting 11-17 inches away from a monitor and increasing the font size to 12-14 point to prevent eye strain. The center of the monitor should be 15-20 degrees below the horizontal eye level, and the entire visual area of the screen should be adjusted so the downward view is never more than 60 degrees. Use eye drops to prevent dry eye, which can occur from decreased blinking while looking at a screen. For dry eyes, also consider blink training, ambient humidity, hydration and redirecting air conditioning. Use a matte screen filter on your phone and computer to reduce glare and strain on the eyes. Matte screen can be found on Amazon, or at Target and Walmart.
Another key issue is that sitting for an extended period of time can contribute to bad posture. Improper posture at your desk results in neck, back, and spinal pain, chronic lower back pain and postural instability, as stated by a study for BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, a journal for the prevention, diagnosis, and management of musculature and skeleton disorders.
To avoid pain and slouching, be aware of seated positions at a desk.
Cintya Chaves, Hatha Yoga instructor for SF State GroupX, said that good posture begins with “building the awareness of your body from your feet to your head.” She suggests that the first thing to do is focus on the feet. If the feet aren’t flat on the floor, either lower the chair or place a pillow under the feet so they are grounded. Always press the sitting bones down into the chair. Become aware of the spine. Use pillows between the body and chair to lengthen the spine.
“You need to be comfortable. How can you work if you aren’t comfortable? Pillows can help you with that,” Chaves said.
She advises placing a pillow in the lap to rest the arms and hands when tired. Relax the shoulders and rotate them to open the chest, projecting the heart into the wall in front of you. Keep the length in the body by projecting a push from the top of the head to the ceiling.
“Everybody has a different limit to work. If you feel that your body might be saying, ‘I’m tired, I can’t find a comfortable position,’ just stand up, stretch, hydrate and then return,” Chaves said.
While challenges such as back pain and headaches are a nuisance for students adapting to learning at home, they are not impossible to manage and improve on.
Yoga, for example, has great effects on the body and mind.
“The main goal in yoga is to bring our mind to the present,” according to Chaves. A study for the International Journal of Yoga, a scientific journal dedicated to yoga research, found that it enhances muscle strength and body flexibility, improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, and promotes recovery and treatment for addiction. It reduces anxiety, stress, depression and chronic pain. Yoga also aids sleeping patterns and boosts overall well-being and quality of life. Consistent yoga increases serotonin levels and decreases monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol. It generates balanced energy that is vital to the immune system and leads to an inhibition of the sympathetic area of the hypothalamus, a region of the forebrain coordinating homeostatic systems involving sleep and emotion, optimizing the body’s responses to stressful stimuli and restoring autonomic regulatory reflex mechanisms associated with stress.
When a long day in front of a computer takes its toll and you’re yearning to relax, Chaves recommends you get on the floor. Using a mat, towel or carpet, create a softer ground and move into the Child’s Pose. Start by sitting with the knees on the ground at hips-width. Fold the body over to make the sitting bones touch the heels and extend the arms shoulders-width apart in front of the body. Pull the head between the shoulders, and crawl the fingertips further away from the body. Doing so brings back realization of gravity, as standing and sitting are always acting against gravity.
“[Child’s Pose] is very good for concentration and stretching your spine, arms and hands,” Chaves said. There are three types of movements to do in this position: move the spine forward and backward, side to side and twist.
“Our spine is our center and structure,” Chaves said. “All the other bones, and the organs depend on our spine.”
The following poses are proven to decrease pain over time, according to the International Journal of Yoga:
Begin in mountain pose, stand with feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides. Roll shoulders back, engage thighs and lift kneecaps. Next, move to Raised Arms pose, lift the arms straight out in front of the body and raise them above the head, either bringing them together, or remaining shoulder-width apart. Inhale deeply. Continue to pull the shoulders towards the ground. Forward bend, and exhale. Keep the arms and back aligned while lowering to the legs. Bend the knees slightly and let the head hang. Keep some weight in the balls of the feet so the hips won’t push back and unalign. Inhale to flat back, lift off the hands onto the fingertips and raise the head to flatten the back. Feel free to rest the hands on the legs as high as needed to reach a flat back. Exhale. Return to forward bend. Inhale and slowly rise back up feeling every vertebrae, keep chin to chest until the head is last to rise. Move the arms back up to Raised Arm position and repeat as many times as needed. This exercise stretches the spine, arms, shoulders and legs to help rejuvenate the body. Breathing through the motions invokes relaxation and concentration.
Lay on the ground with hands by the sides with palms facing up towards the ceiling and legs spread apart. Allow the feet to fall open feeling the pull of gravity towards the ground. Use this time to meditate, by focusing on breathing in and out. Let thoughts come and go with each breath. This pose helps the body and mind to relax, it allows time for checking in with one’s self.
This can be done standing or sitting. Rise up tall with feet on the floor hips-width apart, and interlace hands behind the neck. Push the elbows out wide. Now lift the spine and look to the ceiling, allowing the head to drop into the hands. When ready, ease back into a comfortable position and bring the elbows in, keeping the hands behind the neck. Curl forward by rounding the spine and dropping the head. Feel the stretch in the back of your neck. This exercise helps open the airways and stretch the arms and shoulders.
Get into a pushup position with hands shoulder-length apart and feet hips-width apart. Push back into the hips. Now bend the knees. Keep the head down between the shoulders and the arms straight. Alternate legs pushing the heel towards the ground. When ready, return to the pushup position and ease down to the floor. Keep the hands next to the shoulders, uncurl the toes and lift the upper body. Keep your hips pushed down into the floor. Feel the stretch in your lower back. This pose stretches the shoulders, upper back and calves.
From a standing position, bend the knees and curl forwards to meet them with the arms. Hands should be holding elbows. Drop the head and feel the stretch in the neck. This exercise helps new blood flow to the brain. Doing this on your breaks will help rejuvenate memory and creativity.
From a seated position, place feet flat on the ground hips-width apart. Lengthen the spine and twist it to one side. Use the side of the chair to gently pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Hold for five seconds, then repeat on the other side. Spinal twists help realign and promote movement in the spine.
Aromatherapy is a holistic healing treatment that uses natural plant extracts or essential oils to improve the health of the body, mind and spirit. It improves mood, alertness and math computations, as reported by a study for the International Journal of Neuroscience.
“Aromatherapy is described as both an art and a science, because it takes the knowledge of the scientific aspects of the plants and oils, and combines it with the art of producing a beneficial blend,” the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy said.
A study conducted for European Neurology suggests inhaling lavender when an abundance of screen time causes migraines.This herb is known to help reduce and manage migraines. Results showed that from 129 headache attack cases, 92 responded entirely or partially to lavender.
If school and work is taking a toll on mental and physical health, the Neurological Clinic of the Christian Albrechts University of Germany suggests applying a combination of peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil and ethanol. Each of these results in muscle and mental relaxation, which can help increase cognitive performance. A combination of peppermint oil and ethanol is proven to have the greatest effects on pain reduction.
When typing all day cramps up the hands, try chamomile oil. A study in Research in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, investigated the use of chamomile oil for mild and moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is pressure on the median nerve on the palm side of the hand causing numbness, tingling and weakness. The study found that chamomile oil improved symptoms of severity, functionality, and strength when applied to the hand.
For restless nights and stress, try chamomile oil or tea. It treats insomnia, induces calming effects and assists in healing wounds, as stated in Complementary and Alternative Therapies and the Aging Population. This study found the effects of chamomile oil, in the form of aromatherapy or massage, to aid anxiety and improve the quality of life for cancer patients.
If restful sleep is becoming scarce, lavender and chamomile aromatherapy is proven to decrease anxiety and improve the quality of sleep.
When overwhelmed by school, try inhaling rosemary oil. It was discovered to increase short-term memorization of images and numbers by the Egyptian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences.
While these holistic and physical recommendations may improve one’s ability to cope with the online world, Chaves has one more straightforward piece of advice.
“Don’t forget to breathe. We just forget that we are breathing. It’s so automatic we don’t think about it. Every ten minutes or so ask yourself, ‘how am I breathing?’ If you take advantage of all the spaces in your body to breath, you are going to feel much more concentrated and calm,” Chaves said.
“Breathing can help you to calm thoughts and feelings. If you are feeling anxious about an assignment, stop and breathe for five minutes. Do the correct movements. When you inhale you should expand your belly, and when you exhale you should contract your belly inward.”
Cintya Chaves teaches Hatha yoga every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The class is available to all students via the Mashouf Wellness Center.
Tips for treating computer vision syndrome
Bad posture effects on body
Treatment for CVS
Workers at home
Screen time COVID
Wavelength of screens
Evening use of screens
Definition of Aromatherapy
Lavender for migraine
Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oil
Lavender and Chamomile for burn victims
Chamomile for Elderly
Computer professionals and carpal tunnel
Chamomile for carpal tunnel
Yoga positive effects IJOY
Yoga positions IJOY