50 Ways to Leave Your Computer: Holistic Self-Care for the Online Educator

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

This interactive session provides a variety of holistic self-care techniques for online educators to help overcome unique challenges to wellbeing and prevent burnout.  Challenges include deficiencies in: work boundaries; social interaction; breaks; and movement/exercise.  Likewise excess: screen time; email/pingers; phone calls/texts; online meetings; and other distractions are barriers to self-care.


Dr. Nancyruth Leibold is an energetic and passionate nurse educator who launched her nursing career in 1981. Nancyruth has nursing experience in critical care, medical/surgical nursing, public health nursing, health leadership education, and nursing education. Dr. Leibold has served as a Staff Nurse, Travel Nurse, Nursing Coordinator, Director of Nursing, Nurse Researcher, and Nurse Educator. She has an EdD from College of Saint Mary, MS in Nursing from Creighton University, and BSN from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Nancyruth completed a certificate program from Minnesota State University-Mankato in Faculty Teaching and a certificate program at Minnesota State University-Mankato for Excellence in Online Teaching. Nancyruth is a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) through the National League for Nursing. Also, Dr. Leibold has a certificate in teaching online from the University of New South Wales in Australia. Nancyruth is a Reiki Master/Teacher and certified in mindfulness as a meditation guide and forgiveness coach. Dr. Leibold holds Advanced Holistic Nurse-Board Certification. Dr. Leibold’s research interests include holistic nursing and health, civility, nursing education, online nursing, instructional technology, feedback, and teaching strategies. Nancyruth is active in Sigma Theta Tau International, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, and the American Holistic Nursing Association. She is also an active member of the Watson Caring Science Institute, Society for the Advancement of Modeling and Role Modeling, and Association of Nursing Professional Development. Nancyruth is an active Quality Matters Master Reviewer. Nancyruth is a reviewer for the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Journal of Effective Teaching, and the Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practices. She is a Sigma Theta Tau International Virginia Henderson Fellow. Dr. Leibold is the Editor of Health Sciences at MERLOT. Nancyruth has received numerous nursing awards and teaching awards, such as the Caring in Nursing Award from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, the Outstanding Faculty Award from the nursing student body at Creighton University, and the Excellence in Nursing Award from Sigma Theta Tau, Nu Rho Chapter. In 2013, Dr. Leibold received the Midwest/Heartland Nursing Excellence Educator and Mentor GEM award from nurse.com. She received the 2014 National Nurse Educator Award from Wilson Shepard Associates. In 2014, Nancyruth received the Phyllis Roseberry Service Award from Sigma Theta Tau International, Mu Lambda Chapter. Dr. Leibold received the 2018 Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award from the Nursing Honor Society! In May of 2018, Dr. Leibold was awarded 'Lesson of the Week' for a virtual lesson she authored: Comprehensive School Health Program by SoftChalk! In March of 2020, Dr. Leibold was honored to receive the 2020 Excellence in Nursing Leadership Award from the Omega Omicron Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International. In March of 2021, Nancyruth received three awards from MERLOT: The MERLOT House Cup, The MERLOT Rising Start, and the Peer Reviewer Extraordinaire Award. Dr. Leibold began developing web pages for her courses in 1994, and her passion for distance and online teaching/learning has only grown since then. Nancyruth, a Certified Nurse Educator, has completed several online teaching/learning certificates. During a 2014 Presidential Teaching Scholar Fellowship from Minnesota State University, Mankato, she authored and designed virtual instructional modules and a virtual simulation about civility and conflict management for nurses. Multimodal publications are a favorite of Nancyruth, and she has written many for her online courses. Nancyruth has many professional presentations, grant awards, book chapter publications, multimodal publications, textbooks, and peer-reviewed journal article publications. Nancyruth recently published the second edition of her textbook: The Praxis of Critical Thinking in Nursing. She published the first edition of The Art and Science of Evidence-based practice in Nursing in 2020. In early 2021, she published a textbook for Health Educators titled Community Health and Health Promotion. Also in 2021 Nancyruth authored, edited, and published two holistic nursing textbooks that are Open Textbooks and found at MERLOT, Health Sciences.

Extended Abstract

Topic and Relevance

The presenters are both experts in holistic nursing with Board Certification in Advanced Holistic Nursing (AHN-BC). Anyone who works online the majority of the time has faced challenges to self-care. This session will focus on holistic self-care for the online educator. Holistic self-care encompasses caring for the whole person; mind, body, and spirit. The mind-body connection within oneself is powerful; one affects the other. Challenges to caring for the whole self may be categorized into deficiencies and excesses. The deficiencies lead to excesses and vice-versa.

Lack of work boundaries for example, may lead to fragmented work, long or excessive work hours, and often wasted time. Online teachers often do not have a proper start and stop time, have no set workdays/work week, and no built-in breaks. How tempting is it for example, to pop online when the laptop is in the room and smartphone ever at hand? Working during one’s free-time such as family and leisure time is likewise a consequence. When working remotely, it is also easy to sit in one place for extended periods of time. Stagnation and excess screen time takes a toll on both the mind and body, with cognitive overload, eye-strain and lack of exercise as common consequences. Breaks and interactions tend to be regular when working in person, such as congregating in the break room, not so when working remotely. Interacting with people is natural and compulsory in the traditional workplace; as a juxtaposition, working online can be isolating. Commuting to work provides for preparation to set one’s mind in work-mode on the way to work, and from work equally important, a time to decompress. Walking to and from parking or public transit provides exercise. Remote workers may miss out on these “built in” benefits of their work-site counterparts.  Telecommuters lack rituals to move about and break up time.

Distractions for online educators are abundant. Anyone who works online knows the distraction of excessive email and message “pings”. Do you find yourself constantly flipping over to email each time you hear a ding, or when you are trying to concentrate on grading or crafting a document? Each time you click over, it diverts your focus and can cause lost productivity. No doubt the sheer volume of email and what to do with it is daunting. Phone calls and text messages also interrupt workflow and efficiency.  “Death by meeting”, with online meetings filling the majority of our days or work week, can be an issue as well, not leaving enough time for course development/improvement and actual teaching. Other distractions can be internet surfing, doorbells, outside noises, family members, easy access to food and snacks, and yes, even pets. All of these distractions can take away from completing important work, and extend our workdays, and cause us to neglect our holistic self-care.

Lack of holistic self-care as a result of lack of boundaries and overwork can cause chronic stress and result burnout. Burnout is not a disease, rather a disorder. The International Disease Classification-11 (World Health Organization, 2019) defines Burnout as the following:

"Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."


This lively session, therefore will provide 50 quick and easy to do techniques for the online educator to promote holistic self-care and wellbeing, and prevent chronic stress and burnout fallout. The presenters, who are both experts in holistic nursing and are Board Certified Advanced Holistic Nurses (AHN-BC), will share hands-on practice of complementary modalities. Attendees will be invited to practice select techniques during the presentation to foster interactivity, engagement and future integration into practice. Practical tips for managing work boundaries and distractions will also be discussed.

Session Goals

Participants will be able to

  • Explain why holistic self-care is important for the online educator.
  • Describe a variety of techniques and tips for self-care.
  • Practice select complementary modalities.


World Health Organization. (May, 2019).  Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. Available from https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases.