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MOULTRIE, Ga. — With many employees and students working and learning from home in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19, their mental, physical and emotional health may be simmering on the back burner in an effort to simply survive.

To bring all aspects of health to its rightful place at the forefront of our lives, PCOM South Georgia faculty members recently offered tips for maintaining health while practicing social distancing.

 

Maintaining proper posture

In a time when most people are working on their computer from the couch, bed or dining room table, Kristie Petree, DO ‘13, osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) site director, stresses that maintaining good posture truly makes a physical and mental difference.

“Slouching all day burns more energy, puts your body under more stress, and by the end of the day can lead to you being really stiff, sore and tired,” Petree said.

She advises, “To check your posture, sit where you are. Place your hands on your hips and roll your hips forward. Now you should be sitting on your ‘sit bones’ with a small arch forming in your low back. Take a big deep breath and let your shoulders relax. That should be good posture for you. It should be nice and easy to take a breath.”

She adds that poor posture really takes a toll when you’re seated for so long. Incorrect posture can cause headaches, neck pain, back pain and stiffness, something she sees quite often as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. She says to keep your feet flat on the ground with your elbows down at your side and arms straight to the keyboard. Wrists should be flat, not flexed, and the computer monitor needs to remain at eye level or lower.

One way to keep your posture in check is to set up an ergonomic workstation, ideally at a desk or table, she said. While you may have easy access to a standing desk at work, that’s often not the case at home. If choosing to stand, you still have to assume proper posture. That includes not bending the knees, shifting to one side or rolling the hips. According to Petree, if possible, it’s best to switch every hour from seated to standing.

 

Screen time

“Eye strain and fatigue becomes a problem when we’re constantly staring at a screen,” Petree said. “You need to be taking breaks from the computer screen. Look at a photo on the wall, the ceiling, something that’s far away.”

She also suggests turning your computer screen on dark mode after 5 p.m. This turns down the blue light and helps with your circadian rhythms, which tell you when you should be awake or sleeping. 

 

Mental health

Many professionals and students are learning and working from home in isolation. To combat the loneliness, PCOM South Georgia faculty suggest maintaining a routine, doing things you enjoy and staying in contact with friends and family.

Jennifer Shaw, PhD, associate professor of physiology, says it’s important to start your day by getting changed out of your pajamas.

“It sounds like a small thing, but it’s important for your work mentality,” she said.

Similarly, when you end the day, change clothes and change your focus. Set boundaries between work and home.

“They may spill over physically, but set mental boundaries,” Shaw said.

 

Get active

Jason Walker, PhD, associate professor of physiology, said staying active has mental and physical benefits and is a great way to start the day.

“The results show that working out in the morning helps with your brain activity,” he said. “It gets you out of the fog and gets your metabolism and endorphins going. It sets you up for a great day.”

For every 30 minutes that you sit, alternate standing or walking. Walker adds that this is a great time to increase your “steps” goal. Instead of going for the usual 5,000 or 10,000 steps, challenge yourself to get 15,000 each day. That encourages you to get away from the computer, go outside and be active.

Overall, Petree stresses the importance of being gentle with yourself.

“We’re in unprecedented times,” she said. “Take a break if you need it. Video chat with friends and family during breaks. Find personal interaction where you can. That’s part of keeping yourself well during these times.”

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