With each school year comes the chance to be proactive about your health. You can fight off chronic low energy, constant sniffles and stress headaches before they pull you under. In fact, not having a plan for maintaining your health while pouring passion into your profession will leave you fried by spring, says Mike Anderson, author of The Well-Balanced Teacher. “We have to consider taking care of ourselves as a primary part of our job.” Adopt these seven habits to keep your mind and body running smoothly:
1. Take a mindful break.
Even just a few minutes of relaxation a day will help your body’s stress response, says Mindy Mayol of the department of kinesiology at the University of Indianapolis. Find a peaceful place at school or home to try deep breathing exercises, or take a walk in the halls or outside the building. A bit of nature helps us relate back to our kinesthetic selves.
2. Squash allergens.
Reduce mold, dust, pollen and other allergy triggers in your classroom by regularly wiping down computer screens, your desktop, and other places that collect dust quickly. Certified indoor environmentalist Tony Abate suggests keeping a portable air purifier in your classroom and putting a doormat outside your door. which will keep some debris, including pollen, from tracking inside the room.
3. Be vigilant about germs.
Abate suggests wiping down classroom doorknobs at the beginning and end of the day. Michigan first-grade teacher Jennifer Korte wipes down her students’ desks every day with disinfectant, and makes sure children wash their hands every time they go near their noses. To make sure germs don’t travel, she washes her hands at the end of the school day before heading to her car, and changes her clothes once home.
4. Schedule physical activity.
Put exercise on your calendar as a visual reminder to yourself, says wellness consultant Jolene Moore. Or make it a date with a friend so you’re less tempted to skip. Be realistic about your time and interests: “You have lunch or 10 minutes after school — do something that’s reasonable,” Moore says. Results keep your body healthy and your energy up.
5. Pack a healthful lunch.
Plan ahead for your weekly meals or use leftovers for a quick lunch. Try to make lunch a balance of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, plus fat, protein and fiber. That helps keep blood sugars stable in the afternoon, says dietitian Jennifer Reilly. “This helps with attention span, the ability to multitask and patience,” says Reilly.
6. Think before you drink.
Our body needs a lot of water — half your weight in ounces, so 60 ounces for a 120-pound person. Although coffee counts in the water count, Reilly says, it acts as a diuretic for some — not good when you need to stay at the head of theclass — and keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep. If you need an afternoon energy boost, try an energizing herbal tea, water with lemon or a quick walk in the hall.
7. Get some ZZZs.
Aim for seven or eight hours a night. You’ll have more energy, less stress, and an inclination to eat healthier. When you run on
empty, you produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, store more fat, and have an increased appetite for simple carbs and junk food, Reilly says. Get enough sleep by figuring out your daily routine and how early you need to get up, then counting back seven hours to find your ideal bedtime.
Adapted from NEA Member Benefits
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