10 Distance Learning and Telehealth Self-Care Tips for Educators and Counselors
I started writing another follow-up blog post on additional creative telehealth activities, but I put that on the backburner for a moment and decided to write this post about self-care first because, let’s face it, remote learning and telehealth is draining!
In having conversations with many other educators and therapists, the resounding feeling is that this is HARD and EXHAUSTING. Here is an article from Engadget about why online conferencing is so exhausting.
Below are 10 tips I came up with to help you with self-care during this time. Do you have more tips to share? Reach out to me on instagram! I know in graduate school, self-care was probably drilled into you endlessly, but they do that for a reason!
I also just put together this professional development presentation for educators on stress-management and self-care. This has ACTIONABLE-strategies that are easy to learn and implement! You can take a sneak peek at the bottom of this post.
#1 Adjust the light settings on your monitor.
It’s quite possible your display is too bright and may be causing you eye strain. The monitor brightness should match the level of brightness in the room. If you are on a PC you might find the settings under the night light setting. Many Macs have ambient light sensors, but I found it helpful to adjust my settings anyway.
You can also look into this free program f.lux. I haven’t tried it yet but have heard good things about it. Their website says “it makes the color of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.”
#2 Get Some Blue-light Blocking Glasses
Please go out and get yourself a pair of blue-light blocking glasses! I got this pair, and my youngest son is now calling me “Cartoon-Mommy.” I like how they have the leopard print version and my eyes are thanking me! Before I got these I had a TERRIBLE ocular migraine one day that knocked me out for an entire day. These glasses are a legit game-changer. I bought one pair for the office and then ordered another pair for home! If glasses aren't your thing (or you already have an Rx), they also have blue-light-blocking screen protector for computers. You'll just need to measure your screen size first, and buy on that is the right fit. I actually updated my Rx glasses to add blue light blocking features, but I'm going to be honest, the amazon ones work WAY better. So I wear contacts, and my blue-light blocking glasses.
#3 Adjust Your Video Screen Sizes
Play around with the settings on your screen to see what feels most comfortable for your eyes. I have found that minimizing the tab with the person’s face is helpful, so their face is not too large. I have also started turning off my video during staff meetings unless I am talking or presenting. This is helpful because I can listen but give my eyes a break because I’m not staring at the screen. It felt a little weird at first, but I do recommend this, if your district allows you to attend meetings with your screen off (I hope they do!)
#4 Remember Ergonomics
To elevate my computer up to eye level, I bought this laptop stand, along with a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse. At work, I also have one of these standing desks which I love. You also want to think about your seating as the height of your chair should be so your knees are about hip-level. I picked up this lumbar back cushion for some additional support.
#5 Try an Acupressure Mat
Sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can be difficult on the back and neck. I love this acupressure back mat and pillow. If you can find 3-5 minutes of space in your schedule to just lay down on it, it will be so refreshing. Whenever you can get up, move your body, and do some stretches.
#6 Try a Weighted Lap Pad
Being a counselor during a pandemic was something I never studied how to do. Many therapists, including myself, are working through our own uncomfortable feelings during these times, while also holding space for others. There is so much unknown that it is quite anxiety-provoking for many of us. One helpful tool to cope when feeling anxiety is to use a weighted lap pad, which helps promote relaxation – it’s kind of like a gentle hug. Here is a summary of some of the research. You can discretely have a weighted lap pad on your lap during remote meetings.
#7 Fidgets aren’t just for kids!
Fidgets aren’t just for kids! Grab yourself some thinking putty, a fidget cube, or a mermaid sequin bracelet! You can discretely play with either of these under your desk. I love to take a deep breath in as I rub the sequins in one direction, and then breathe out deeply as I rub the sequins in the opposite direction. What fidgets are your favorite?
#8 Use Aromatherapy
I love aromatherapy (I actually studied to be a certified aromatherapist.) I keep a bottle of rose-water at my desk, and often spritz myself with it. If I need something calming, I go for a more relaxing scent like lavender. Plant therapy has some great stress-relief roll-ons like the Worry Free Synergy, or Tranquil, or Relax which is a kid-safe version. If you haven't studied aromatherapy, pre-diluted roll-ons are the way to go! Just be sure to read the directions, and of course, check for allergies!
#9 Try a Relaxation App
Consider using a relaxation app. I use the Calm app everyday and I love it! I wrote about a bunch of other apps for stress relief and relaxation here.
#10 Maintain Boundaries
Boundaries between work and home seem harder to maintain now more than ever before, as many people are working from home. Please subscribe to my free resource library at the bottom of this page, and you’ll get a printable copy of this visual to help you shift from work from home and create and maintain some healthy home/work boundaries. You can also listen to this guided meditation I came up with to help you transition home and leave your work at work.
You can take a sneak peek at my new Staff Self Care and Stress Management - Professional Development Presentation. This resource includes a Google Slides™ presentation with 61 slides and notes for the presenter. The presentation offers simple and actionable self-care strategies that teachers can begin implementing immediately! In addition to the presentation, you will receive these supplemental materials to help you carry out a well-rounded staff presentation:
A Self-Care Assessment
A Self-Care Plan Worksheet
What Brings You Joy Worksheet
Shifting From Work to Home Visual Poster (in color and B&W versions)
An MP3 Guided Meditation for Helping you Shift from Work to Home (also embedded as a video in the presentation)
By the end of the presentation, participants will:
Identify what brings them joy
Identify how common educator stress is
Identify impacts and sources of educator stress
Identify the benefits of self-care
Identify the 6 aspects of self-care
Complete a self-care assessment
Create a self-care plan
Identify seven strategies to complete the stress cycle
Discuss how boundaries are related to self-care
Participate in a guided relaxation regarding shifting from work to home
Identify micro-moves for self-care
Discuss helpful wellness habits
You can purchase the slides and supplemental materials for this affordable presentation here, so you help your own staff today!