Ever since the world shifted online in spring 2020, back-to-back video calls, days spent at home and the dreaded feeling of “Zoom fatigue” have become part of our everyday lives. As an educator, I can see the exhaustion on the faces in Zoom squares — mine especially. For the sake of my own mental and physical health, I needed to change my approach as a virtual professor. I needed to find ways to refresh myself, for my benefit and for the sake of my students.
Building moments of refreshment into the workday is easier than it might seem. Here are a few simple ways to find tranquility within yourself and your surroundings, even when the world outside seems far from tranquil.
Getting to Class and Back
Before we pivoted to remote teaching in March, I had gotten into the habit of walking the long way to class and/or back to the office. When I taught across campus, these walks were a necessity — a chance to clear my head and get refreshed before meeting my class and after sending them off. When I taught one floor below my office, I religiously exited the building, walked my 15-minute loop along the campus greenway, only then returning to my desk. In this virtual world, I have learned to block off a little extra time before and after my classes to make space for a quick walk in my neighborhood. If it’s not realistic for you to take a walk, getting up for a stretch and eye-break may refresh you as you transition into class or meetings. Consider other ways to intentionally untangle yourself from technology throughout the day.
A Dose of Nature
Take in a dose of nature when you can. I start my day by taking my cup of hot beverage out to my back stoop, taking in the sights and sounds of the early morning. On rainy days, I hang out in the doorway that leads to the backyard. I remind myself that the earth needs rain. And that I had nothing to do with this life-giving watering. It reminds me of my humanity, of my smallness in a great big world, of the joy in this moment in nature, and I have peace. Periodically, I look out the window of my spare-bedroom-turned-home-office, even during meetings. This simple practice is uplifting to my spirit and gives my screen-strained eyes a break.
The Three-Minute Pause
Before opening my computer in the morning, I take three minutes to calm and recenter myself, to remember that as much as I love what I do, it’s only a job. There is more to my life and who I am than what I accomplish. I encourage you to take a few moments of quiet to release all the craziness of (pick one or more) work/family relationships/COVID-19/all that is in the news. As human beings, we have limited control. I’ve found that these three-minute pauses remind me that my work and the challenges I face are privileges, opportunities to use the gifts and talents I have been given to be a blessing to others. Try a three-minute pause; let me know if it helps you.
I encourage you to experiment and find something that refreshes you throughout your day and workweek. You are worth the investment.