Settling into Sedentary

Online school is difficult for a multitude of reasons, not to mention trying to learn virtually during a pandemic, but sitting at a desk or on your bed, staring at a computer for hours every day just ain’t it. Finding ways to stay active and engaged outside of online classes is critical to everyone’s well-being, especially now. It’s definitely easier to preach than practice these habits, I’m still working on these myself, but even the littlest changes can be extremely beneficial.

One of the easiest habits to adopt during this virtual semester is to move, stretch, or walk for 2 minutes for every hour you’ve been sitting. A couple of my classes this semester are 50 minutes three times a week, so that’s only 6 minutes of being active, which of course won’t get you swole or lose weight or anything like that, but it will help you feel less like a bum or a potato. I have one class that is an hour and a half twice a week, and we get a five minute break halfway through. Usually I would just turn off my camera and go on my phone until the professor comes back, but it’s so much more beneficial to stand up and walk. I will walk to the kitchen and get a glass of water and walk into the living room and then walk outside to see what the weather is like because I rarely go outside lol, and then I’ll walk back to the kitchen and then back to my room and it’s only been maybe 2 minutes. Walking to go get some water is probably the best option because it knocks out two birds with one stone, moving and drinking water. If you live with other people and don’t want to disturb them or are in a living situation where you can’t just go wandering, stay in your study area and do 15 jumping jacks. If this is too noisy for your living situation, do some simple stretches like reaching up to the ceiling, trying to touch your toes (I still can’t do this one even after 3 years of dance), sit on the floor and reach towards your toes, literally any stretches will work. This may seem too simple to be beneficial, or it could seem too daunting depending on where you’re at, but I promise you that standing up and moving for as little as two minutes will make you feel so much better than staying seated on your phone.

Some of these tips I’ve heard a million times, but maybe it’ll take a million and one times for them to stick. Writing out the tasks or homework assignments you have to work on is another way to stay on top of online classes. Try to make a clear list of your assignments for each class. I like to have two sets of lists, one with all my homework assignments for each class, and another to-do list that has everything I need to accomplish today on it. Sometimes I will add something as simple as “email professor”, or “check if grade has been posted”, or even “club meeting tonight” which are super simple tasks that I can cross off immediately or with very little effort. This is a recommended habit as it makes you feel like you’ve already accomplished something, and it makes it seem easier to tackle the rest of the tasks on the list. Make sure your to-do lists are manageable, it is easy to put a bunch of assignments or tasks onto your list and then you make yourself overwhelmed. As with most things, try not to look too far ahead and psyche yourself out about all the work you will eventually do. If you look backwards at the end of the day and reflect on how much you accomplished, you’ll realize how much you achieved without necessarily realizing it, but looking forward at everything expected of you can seem daunting and stressful, so don’t lol.

If you haven’t heard of the pomodoro technique, it’s a scientifically proven study technique that helps you retain the information you’re studying while also making sure you take breaks and aren’t sitting down for hours at a time or for an all nighter. The basic idea is that you study for 25 minutes and then you take a 5 minute break. Again, don’t use these breaks to just go on your phone, get up and move. Even if you stretch while listening to music or walk to the kitchen and scroll through Instagram or TikTok while you’re walking, that’s still better than staying sedentary the entire time. After your break, study again for 25 minutes without distractions, aka your phone. I have trouble with this one sometimes because I will forget I’m supposed to be studying for 25 minutes and then I get distracted with my phone and then my timer goes off and I realize I haven’t been focusing. So if you’re as absent minded as me, make sure to remove any distractions from your workspace for 25 minutes. As you get accustomed to this schedule you can also increase the time increments, study for 45 minutes and take a 10 minute break or study for an hour and take a 15-20 minute break.

As always, it can be super helpful to get rid of any distractions (ahem, your phone) during online classes, stay organized with your space and your tasks, manage your time efficiently, hold yourself accountable for your assignments and responsibilities, try to stay engaged in class and participate, blah blah blah. Those are definitely all good suggestions, and I’m trying to incorporate them into my bizarre online world, but I’ve also found that having concrete goals like walk around the house for two minutes, stretch for five minutes between classes, and cross three things off my to-do list are much more manageable and accomplishable than “stay organized”, “hold yourself accountable”, “don’t be distracted”.

These online semesters are long and can be very draining at times, so try to be forgiving with yourself, give yourself breaks when you need them, and keep pushing through!

-Jackie Rittenhouse ’23, Whitewater Kayaking Instructor.