The hidden threat of online teaching

The hidden threat of online teaching

Working from home in your pajama pants and the kitchen being an arm’s length away is the best thing since sliced bread. What if I told it can actually be detrimental to your health if you don’t take care? I’ve just had the worst 4 weeks and today I want to share my personal experience with you. The more online teachers this reaches the better. I don’t want anyone to go through what I experienced and are experiencing now.

4 weeks ago I tore a hernia in my abdomen. I simply lifted something too heavy when it happened. What I didn’t know is that the hernia was slowly forming leading up to the tear.

What exactly is a hernia?

According to www.healthline.com hernias are explained the following way:
“A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. For example, the intestines may break through a weakened area in the abdominal wall. Hernias are most common in the abdomen, but they can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin areas.”

In fact, not only organs can push through but fatty tissue too. Hernias are caused by weak muscles or strain on the muscle, chronic coughing or sneezing, damage from surgery, constipation, being overweight or poor posture while sitting for long periods of times.

You see my dear colleagues not only do I sit with poor posture for hours while teaching, but I also tend to snack a little (because as you know, the kitchen is nearby) which has resulted in a little bit of extra weight. Now because I sit for so long, my abdominal muscles had weakened so much that it couldn’t keep the extra weight in its place while I was slouching forward thus resulting in a slow tear. The moment I picked up something heavy the muscle couldn’t hold it back any longer and then the hernia happened. Trust me, it’s painful and feels a lot like a piping hot knife stabbing you.

A day later I was pushed into the operating theatre. Surgery is short and not complicated but no one warned me of the recovery that was ahead.

Hold tight, things are about to get real!

Recovery takes 6 to 10 weeks. For 3 weeks you will be on bed rest, depending on your pain and effects of the anesthesia. After 2-3weeks you should be able to return to work slowly. You won’t be able to sit for very long and you will get tired. Also, no driving so you rely on others to help you.

Anesthesia can cause extreme fatigue, memory loss and slurring of speech. Not ideal for us teachers, right?

I tried to teach in week 2 of my recovery and I could barely get through one 50 minute lesson. Not only could I not sit for that long, but I also struggled to use the right vocabulary. Needless to say, I didn’t teach again for that week and waited until I was stronger.

So what now? What did I learn? What do I want to share with you besides my soppy story?

1. Take care, my dear colleagues!

If you have ticked anything on the list mentioned above, make the changes you can NOW before it is too late. It is never too late to take back your health. Consider how many hours a day you sit. Do you really burn as much energy compared to people who do physical labour? Do really need the 3 big meals a day to sustain your energy if you are only sitting for hours? Or are you putting more energy (food) into your body than what your body needs for energy? Are your meals snacks convenient? If so, they probably are high in the bad kinds of fats and sugars. Please check the little details.

Do you have poor posture? Does your back get sore by the end of the day? If your answer is yes, invest in supporting equipment such an appropriate chair or a lumbar support/brace.
You can see mine here:

Also, they are easily available on Amazon.

You can also get lumbar support for a regular chair but I still recommend the support brace which offers better support.

2) Get moving, and not just to the kitchen and back! Yes, I see you 🙂
Review your lifestyle and habits, make the changes you need to make to stay healthy. Make sure to keep your core strong since this is where most hernias form. You don’t have to join a gym. There are some great at home exercises you can do to keep your abdomen strong. Check them out here.

3) Have savings.
We forget sometimes that every hour we don’t work… we don’t have an income!
So imagine not being able to work for 3 weeks, almost an entire month.
Are you prepared? Do you have savings in place for emergencies like mine?
Many teachers don’t and in most cases, we always say: “it will never happen to me”. Oh, but it can!
Do yourself a favour and put away some extra money. I was lucky that I have an insurance policy which insures my average monthly income should I fall very ill or be permanently disabled and unable to work.
You have to ask yourself if you were to become ill/disabled and unable to work, where will the money come from to take care of your family or expenses?
We also need to remember that when we are ill for weeks at a time that it doesn’t only affect our income but our school and our students.

For me, since my operation, I have dropped a lot of Kgs and I have made a huge mental shift regarding my eating habits. You don’t want to go through this scare. I didn’t know my body was in such poor shape. In addition to the hernia, I, unfortunately, stopped breathing post operation and that was because I had gained weight since working from home. I can’t blame working from home since well, I am the one who ate more than I should have.

How does this affect our school and students?

Prevention is better than cure. Unfortunately, not everyone is understanding.

Students are inconvenienced and have to opt for a sub teacher. You run the risk of losing your student. Should your student decide to stop their studies the school loses an income and so do you. Sometimes when we fall ill our students also become demotivated and lose their momentum. If at all possible stay in contact with your students and send lots of hometasks to keep them busy and motivated. Regular contact and communication will be key in a situation like this.

Let’s recap.

  • Are you prepared for a rainy day? Make sure you have savings to cover your income or get the appropriate insurance.
  • If you have ticked some of the boxes above, make some lifestyle changes or smarter decisions before it’s too late. You might think you are in good health but the human body can surprise us sometimes.
  • Invest in some high-quality material to support your posture if you are indeed sitting for long hours.
  • Remember to strengthen your core muscles so that they stay strong to prevent hernias from forming.

I hope this story helps you and please remember to share with your family and friends who also might have jobs which have them sitting for many many hours.

 

Hanette Lian Stimie

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