Participate: Digital Health Quest

posted May 16, 2016, 11:56 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated May 19, 2016, 8:13 AM ]
My health is very important to me.  When I was in high school, I was very sick and learned how much we take good health for granted.  I missed a lot of school, underwent practically every test that has an acronym (CAT scan, PET scan, MRI, etc...).  Today, I continue to take my health seriously, but I also consider my mental health as well.  I've learned that I function best with sleep (who doesn't?), that exercise clears my mind and helps me become less uptight, and that I am an introvert in every sense of the word and that I need to have my "me" time or else I tend to get short with others.

To this end, I try to do some exercise or activity each day.  
The screenshot above shows my activity data for the last week.  It also shows how I try to utilize my technology to benefit my health and happiness, rather than push me away from family and friends.  I tend to do better with my exercise on the weekends (more time!), but I expect it to go up with summer just around the corner.  It is important to me to at the very least complete my activity goal for the day, even if it doesn't quite fulfill my exercise goal for the day. I look forward to continually increasing my move goal (and maybe even exercise goal!).  On the weekends, I make it a point to go for a walk/run every day.  I schedule it into my day just like I schedule grocery shopping, washing laundry, etc.  Sometimes I have to mentally push myself out the door, but I can't think of a time that I've regretted getting outside and being active.

Family dinnertime is an important part of my day.  Ever since I was a kid, we had dinners together as a family.  Even now, while staying with my parents, we plan dinners together.  
This is from a chat with my mom just today.  We plan dinners together.  Sometimes our plans change, but we try to always eat dinner together (as long as someone isn't working too late).

I spend a lot of time attached to my phone, but much of this stems from the fact that my husband is working in Atlanta right now while I am still in the Savannah area, so we are constantly texting and messaging throughout the day.  It's just one way we try to stay connected to each other since we only get to see each other every other weekend. 

When I leave work, I try not to get on the computer.  I used to spend a lot of my home time working on school things and checking and responding to school email.  Then, I realized I was getting burnt out - not because of the work I did at school, but because of all of the extra work I did at home, on my time.  So I make it a point to try and spend my home time relaxing with my family, playing with my baby, and decompressing from school.  I've found this makes me a much happier teacher, which both me and the students appreciate :)

I think the best way to ensure a balanced blend of technology and well-being is to be honest with yourself about your technology habits.  Do you know that you tend to spend too much time on Facebook?  Try to set up a period of time when you don't check Facebook and are just present in the moment.  Do you know you need to spend more time on your health and exercise?  Schedule your exercise.  Reward yourself when you meet goals.  I've found that most people are aware of their shortcomings when it comes to their well-being, even if they don't want to admit it to others.

I think it is important for students and teachers to take breaks from technology.  I like how my Apple Watch gives me a reminder to stand each hour.  I've noticed that if I sit for too long working on something, after awhile, I tend to lose focus and become less efficient and productive.  I've seen that this happens with students in my classroom as well.  When teaching a completely virtual class, your students are going to spend a good deal of time in front of the computer.  I think it's important to "chunk" assignments into smaller pieces so natural breaks appear within the lesson, allowing students to get up, get a drink, stretch, or whatever they need to do without interrupting their flow.  This is why I tried to make my physics screencasts short.  I'd rather the kids watch four 5 minute videos than one 20 minute video.  This way they get natural breaks within the lessons. These are things I can do on my end to ensure that students are using technology, but maintaining their physical and mental health.

Students can set timers to make sure they take "stand-up" breaks at least once every hour.  They can make sure they are working on their assignments a little bit at a time and not procrastinating so that they don't feel like they need to have a marathon work session because they are so behind.  Students, especially virtual school students, can make sure that they get outside for just a few minutes each day to enjoy the fresh air and get some much needed Vitamin D.  If they are continually struggling with making it outside, they can schedule this time just like they would a class (no judgement here - I already mentioned that I have to do the same).