Usually a debut post from a new author is a celebratory act. In my case, I've been working my way back to a state of well-being after contracting a head cold. Inspired by my own personal experience with winter wellness, I've decided to share some tips and suggestions for the online learner. While you don't have as much interpersonal classroom contact with your peers, there are still some things that merit consideration.
Did you know that we blink less when we stare at a computer screen? It is true. As we stare off into our monitors, we tend not to blink as often. During the winter, when climates can be a lot dryer, fewer "blinks" can mean dry eyes. If you wear contact lenses, this phenomenon is exacerbated. It is best to give your eyes breaks every now and then so that you can stave off potential headaches or eye strain.
Staying hydrated is a must during dry winter months (unless you live somewhere like the Pacific Northwest and you have the opposite challenge). I tend to drink a lot more water during the week because it is quite dry in New England. The air here is so dry that static charges build up and can be very shocking. A humidifier can help keep the air at a comfortable level which makes you feel better and protects your computer from static charges.
If you do end up catching a cold, the first thing that you should do is to contact your professors and let them know that you may need some extra time to turn in your work. Check with your student services / student affairs contact at your school. They may have a formal process for communicating to all of your teachers that you are out sick. Student affairs professionals can be a terrific lifeline when you are in need of crucial information. Make sure that you develop a relationship with them prior to getting sick or having an emergency. That way, you are known to them and it will be easier to get the assistance that you require.
Cold winter weather can also impact your studies in unforeseen ways. Power outages do take place and it is important to save your work on a regular basis. Using a site like Google Docs as your homework "hub" can be a great way to backup your work to the "cloud." If your power does go out, due to weather, it may be possible to find "juice" and internet access at a local business. Commercial power grids are sometimes more stable than residential ones. Head to your local coffee shop for a warm beverage, electricity and access to the web. It is also nice to change your work location from time-to-time. A coffee shop gets you out of the house and around other people. Sometimes, it is nice to work in that environment.
Winter wellness is a lot like wellness during any other season, however, note that cold, dry air can sometimes change things up a bit. Take care of yourself, notify your instructors if you catch a cold, drink lots of fluids, and remember to rest your eyes. I hope you are having a terrific Winter in 2012!