Wellness & Nutrition Tips for Online Students
Creating Healthy Routines for Zoom School
Written by Teagan Evans, University of Alberta Student in the Nutrition and Food Sciences program and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team
Life in the pandemic has changed the way we work, learn, socialize, and complete daily tasks. As a university student, my life changed overnight from in-person classes with hundreds of students to solitary online learning from home. In-person learning involved walks to and from campus, small breaks between classes, and social interaction. As I adjusted to online learning, I realized that these small activities and breaks were key components to a successful learning environment.
I think we can all agree that “zoom” (or whatever online meeting platform you are using) takes up too much of our daily routine. We are ready to return to normal life. Constantly logging onto Zoom meetings can be extremely draining and lead to long-term screen fatigue.
I’ve compiled some wellness and nutrition tips for online students along with other tricks I’ve developed over the last year that make online learning and remote working more enjoyable and that can help you remain productive.
Get Some Exercise
Transitioning to online learning has resulted in endless amounts of sitting and made daily commutes non-existent. Before, after, or between Zoom meetings and classes, engage in some form of exercise. These small breaks increase productivity by giving our brains and bodies a refresh. You’ll feel more alert and better prepared for your next meeting or lecture.
Here are some activities you can do:
Walk outside: This is the easiest the simplest way to get your body moving after a Zoom call. Try finding new pathway systems and streets to walk through in your neighbourhood. If you have enough time, try venturing out to another neighbourhood for a change of scenery.
Yoga: Yoga is a great activity for everyone, but especially Zoom learners and workers who are sitting for long periods of time. When you sit, your muscles and joints tighten, and this can lead to back pain, body aches, and increased risk of injury during physical activity. There are thousands of online workout instructors who specialize in yoga for virtual learners/workers and include short 10-minute routines that can be completed between meetings or class.
At-home workouts: Just because your local gym or workout studio is closed, does not mean you have to stop being active. Invest in some hand weights, resistance brands, or medicine balls to create a mini home gym. If you don’t have these items available to you, get creative! Fill a backpack full of textbooks or jugs of water for your weights and use stairs or furniture in place of a bench.
Jump Rope: Jump ropes are back! This is another super easy and affordable way to get an intense workout in 15 minutes or less. Try setting a timer for 5 minutes and increase the duration as your endurance improves.
Maintain A Daily Routine
As the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, we are, once again, home the majority of the time. Every day feels exactly the same and it can be very easy to fall into the trap of staying in sweatpants and loungewear for our entire day. In order to maintain a divide between work / school hours and rest hours, keep your daily routine as similar as possible and treat your Zoom meetings like you would if they were in person.
Here are a few things you can do to make your current situation more familiar:
Dress for the day: We all love wearing our sweatpants and dress shirt during at-home meetings, but this may be harming your productivity. By changing out of our pajamas and into real clothes it creates a shift in our brain that school or work has begun, and our relaxing morning time is done. Even something as simple as putting on a pair of shoes can be the trigger that you are now in “work mode”. By getting ready for the day like you normally would prior to the pandemic, you are maintaining part of your daily routine and giving your day more structure.
Set “working hours”: Typically, work and school occurred during a scheduled time of day but now there are no set start and finish times. We may find ourselves working late into the evening and never switching off. Setting boundaries for when you are going to work and dedicating scheduled time for other activities and responsibilities (like exercising, meal preparation and socializing) will help you be more productive AND more rested.
Avoid Mindless Snacking: Working from home means that there is always access to snacks! It can be easy to get distracted by all the snacks available to you. When we are out of the house, the food available to us is either what we prepared beforehand, or what we purchase. This limits us from mindlessly snacking throughout the day. When you are working or studying at home, avoid snacking while in front of your screen – this is my number one nutrition tip for online students! Mindless eating eliminates the important brain and body connection between you and your food and can cause you to consume larger portions, eat too quickly, and reduce the enjoyment of meals. By dedicating separate time for eating and working, you will develop healthier habits and avoid overconsumption of food.
For more tips about how to avoid mindless snacking, check out these articles on our blog:
- Working from Home: How to Overcome 3 Eating Challenges
- Stress Eating: How Stress can Make us Overeat and What to Do About it
- Mindful Eating: How We Eat Is As Important As What We Eat
Cook Proper Meals
Taking the time to prepare proper meals will not only add to the structure of your daily routine but will reduce your likeliness to unconsciously snack throughout the day. It is important to consume a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner to avoid blood sugar crashes. If you find yourself mindlessly snacking and not having an appetite for dinner, try incorporating a balanced meal at lunch full of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Dedicating time to prepare healthy meals can be overwhelming. However, each meal doesn’t need be elaborate or unique! Focus on achieving a balanced meal. Aim for half your plate filled with vegetables and fruit with the other two quarters divided equally between carbohydrates and protein.
For more information about meal preparation and other nutrition tips check out these articles on our blog:
- How to meal prep like a pro and spend less time in the kitchen
- Weekly meal plan to overcome dinner roadblocks
Limit Screen Time
I am constantly using some type of screen whether that involves attending class, virtual meetings, or working on assignments. As a result of all the screen time, I have experienced increased headaches, sore neck and back, and interrupted sleep cycles from the blue light. Here are some of the strategies I use to reduce my screen time:
Take breaks: By staring at a screen all day long, your eyes will become fatigued. I try reducing this fatigue by taking breaks between long Zoom sessions. This provides my eyes (and brain) with a break and allows them to relax before my next meeting or class.
Alternate activities: If possible, alternate the type of activity you are completing. If I know I have a technology dependent day, I try to break up the long periods of screen time with other non-screen requiring activities. I purposefully schedule my day this way as it helps me remain productive in a variety of tasks.
Reduce your exposure to blue light: I would love to be able to put my screen away for the majority of the day, however that is unrealistic right now. If I am not able to reduce my screen time, I try to reduce the blue light that negatively affects me. Many computers have a nighttime setting that changes the blue undertones of your screen to orange. This means that your screen is less harmful on your eyes and can help you sleep better as blue light is not interfering with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Remove Distractions: Prior to the pandemic, we were able to define home and work life and we had separate environments for both activities. Now we must find a balance between home life and working virtually, both in the same environment. This causes endless distractions and reduces our productivity. By removing distractions in our environment, we have a higher chance of focusing on one task.
Put your phone away: Having a smartphone constantly popping up notifications can be extremely distracting. Putting your phone across the room or out of sight will help you stay focused and be more productive. Social media can be a major distraction and consume a large amount of our time. If you are unaware of how much time you spend on your smartphone, try using screen time reports. You might be surprised how much time you spend on social media!
Create a dedicated workspace: Whether that is your home office or kitchen table, creating a dedicated space can help create a calming environment that your brain associates with work or school. As well, having a dedicated workspace can help you eliminate a variety of distractions and help maintain your focus. You can also leave it behind when your designated working hours are over!
I hope this article helps you develop healthier virtual learning and remote working habits. Next time you log into a full day of Zoom meetings, try some of these tips and tricks and see how they can increase y our productivity and reduce your fatigue.
Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice.