The one unavoidable caveat to a mostly online education is the amount of time I am spending staring at my computer screen. I find that my eyes feel heavy and strained, making practicing those suture patterns even more difficult (side note, if anyone has tips for an intradermal pattern for a lefty to be faster than 2 throws a minute, PLEASE let me know), and studies show that increased screen time can have some detrimental effects to the body’s circadian rhythm. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm, on top of a rigorous workload, leave the stressed-out veterinary student immunocompromised and thus more likely to contract a pretty nasty virus during a pandemic. To fight this screen time fatigue, I’ve made some adjustments to my regular daily routine.
The blue UV light from our screens can let off oxygen radicals that in high concentrations can affect how our skin looks and feels. Ever stared at your screen on a long study day and woke up feeling “puffy” under your eyes and cheeks? This is a combination of a decreased lymphatic flow to your face from so much screen time and free radicals damaging the collagen in your skin. A vitamin D serum can be purchased at any drug store and when applied daily will protect your skin. Not only does it oxidize radical oxygen particles from your screen, but it also helps protect and nourish the collagen in your face which prevents wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
Another inexpensive tool I’ve added to my routine is a frozen ice roller. It sounds silly, I know, but the lymphatic system is a passive system. Unlike the vascular system, which has the heart to constantly pump its contents throughout the body, the lymphatic system only moves when you do. Therefore, when you’re staring at a screen for a prolonged amount of time, you’re likely not giving the lymph system the extra ante it needs to remove the “sludge” from your study bender. Especially when focused, it is unlikely you’re getting the lymph flow through your face. The ice roller not only wakes me up but gets the puffiness out of my eyes and cheeks, making me feel (and look) more refreshed and less tired.
I’m not going to go out and say “ditch the coffee”. I could never. However, I’ve found by limiting the coffee I drink in a day with other energy pick me ups have improved how I am feeling throughout the day. I’ve recently started using caffeinated water mix-ins instead of coffee in the afternoon. Most of these are made of all-natural ingredients and use products like vitamin B and acai to further boost your energy levels in a way that is natural for the body, which avoids that crash later in the day. The added benefit to this is that I’m drinking adequate amounts of water. Fighting dehydration I’ve found keeps me focused and avoids headaches.
In a semester that demands the veterinary student to be flexible to their routine, it’s important that we are taking care of ourselves. Even if they are simple changes, keeping my body healthy will ensure that my mind is sharp for me to be the best student I can be. Building healthy habits now will lead to a long and happy career built upon routines developed in vet school.