There’s no question that these pandemic years have taken a toll on us all. Children were compelled to transition to remote learning, and many continue to engage in virtual schooling, at least part-time. Meanwhile, parents found their offices shuttered and their work migrating to the home office.
Families were required to shelter in place, connecting with friends and loved ones outside of the household through digital devices. Favorite activities were suspended, and a sedentary lifestyle emerged to replace the bustle of life before the pandemic.
Today, though the pandemic seems to be abating at last and lockdowns have begun to lift, the simple reality is that life for many families remains far different than what it was in 2019. This includes the reality that remote work and learning environments remain the norm in countless households, and that has taken a profound toll on family health.
However, there are important steps that families can take today to counteract the effects of remote environments on family health. We’ll show you how.
One of the more significant threats of the ascendancy of remote work and learning is the detrimental impact on families’ eating habits. With parents and children spending the majority of their time at home, often parked in front of a computer screen both for entertainment and for work and study, incessant, unhealthy snacking has taken the place of a balanced and nutritious diet.
This has only threatened to exacerbate the dangerous childhood obesity epidemic, contributing to the increase in rates of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and musculoskeletal disorders among children.
To counteract these threats, families must engage in mindful eating. All too often, children and adults stuck at home turn to unhealthy foods to relieve stress, provide comfort, and relieve boredom.
However, when families begin to change their perspectives on diet, when they begin to see food both as fuel and medicine, this can help parents and kids make more conscious and healthful choices, breaking the cycle of mindless and unhealthy eating.
In addition to the poor eating habits that can emerge when families are spending most of their time online, the risks associated with being sedentary also significantly increase. As our lives become increasingly centered in the virtual space, we lose even the opportunity to walk to class or the office, to stroll the school or the corporate campus.
Further, even with lockdowns lifting and regular school and community activities resuming, not all families have proven ready or able to resume the activities they once engaged in, such as school sports, dance, gymnastics, or other extra-curricular activities.
Even if your family is continuing to limit contact with others at present, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t be active. There are lots of ways to get moving without risking exposure to the virus.
Something as simple as a nightly family walk around the neighborhood will help get your blood flowing, your lungs pumping, and your muscles working. Additionally, spending time outdoors can significantly boost your mood.
Once you and your family start feeling physically and mentally better, you’re going to have more motivation and energy to be ever more active, ever more engaged with the activities your family can enjoy together.
Spending too much time in remote environments isn’t just harmful to your family’s physical health. It can also take a devastating toll on your family’s mental and emotional health. For example, studies have shown that too much screen time can contribute to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and even poor body image among children and teens.
For this reason, it’s imperative to limit the amount of time that children and teens spend on their digital devices each day, even when kids are learning remotely.
Setting time controls on your home wi-fi or your devices can also be a great way to ensure that the adults in the household are also unplugging. This can help reduce the temptation to be “always on” with your remote work, enabling parents and kids alike to reserve time to decompress, get quiet, and be together.
This also provides an invaluable opportunity for families to engage in activities that can help reduce stress and foster a sense of well-being and connectedness. For example, you might set aside an hour each evening for the family to play a game, do some yoga, or even practice meditation together. Indeed, studies have shown that meditation is an especially powerful tool for remote workers, as it can help mitigate some of the anxiety and isolation that often accompany the digital work (and learning) space.
While remote work and school environments are nothing new, with the advent of COVID-19, they have come to dominate the daily lives of many families. Today, though lockdowns continue to lift, many families still find themselves working and studying remotely at least some of the time. This has brought with it several significant health threats, including the risk of obesity, chronic disease, and mental illness. However, with a few strategic steps, from mindful eating and physical activity to social and spiritual engagement, your family can counteract the myriad health risks of remote environments.