Use Your Health Benefits for the Sake of the Students!

I have a great health benefits package that I have used during the pandemic more than I ever have over thirty years, except when I got a back injury in 2015.

Caring for my own mental and physical health has been essential in maintaining my capacity for supporting the more vulnerable members of the YorkU community who do not have these privileges, namely our students.

Every December I make two New Year's resolutions:

  1. Improve my physical fitness by sticking to an exercise routine;
  2. Achieve my stated goal of posting one of my 12 annual Science-themed blog posts once a month on my lab website.

When I teach in Winter Terms beginning in a January, I usually fail to meet both of these resolutions, and pick them up around April if I'm lucky. But, although these are my first lab blog posts for 2021, because I am determined to post something this year, I have been pretty dedicated to achieving Resolution 1, not least because failure to do so has direct consequences for my back pain.

Managing a Workload that changed from Acutely High to Chronically High

Starting in April 2020, I was pro-active in using my generous YorkU YUFA Health Benefits. I saw my physiotherapist through Zoom. That helped me to alleviate the impact of hours of lockdown sitting, and to manage the chronic pain flare ups that happens when I don't prioritize my lower back exercises. And I set up a cute, although ultimately unsustainable standing-desk at home with a StorkStand.

But despite my early efforts, like many other people, by Summer Term 2020 I had piled on lockdown pounds. For exercise support, I found a great personal trainer based in San Francisco, who my daughter had seen when she worked there. Charlee Passero's work had been severely affected by lockdown and gym closures, and he needed paying Zoom clients, so it was a win-win. He also nagged encouraged me to curb my caloric intake. I am very grateful to Coach Charlie Passero for getting me through 2020 in fairly mobile, pain-free condition, and slowing down my expanding waistline!

In November 2020, I bought a new FitBit. For some reason, I tend to break them and I hadn't had one that worked since 2018. By the end of Winter Term of Pandemic Year 2 (PY2), and the middle of Summer 1 Term (6 weeks) my trusty FitBit told me I was hitting 11,000 steps a day on average. Sometimes, I would just walk around the block 5 times after sitting all day in Zoom meetings.

BUT, there were bumps along the way, and in Fall 2020 I got a knee injury that slowed me down. So, I also re-activated my Registered Massage Therapist, who I discovered was back in Toronto.

Petr Pulchart has kept me pain-free during 2021, and got me onto doing daily bursts of Yoga With Adriene (Mischler) whom I recommend to everyone.

I don't know how many of my colleagues have used their health benefits in this way during the pandemic. If you haven't, I encourage you to think about doing so for the sake of the students.