Teachers who do not prioritize themselves simply don’t function at their best and may compromise their ability to contribute to the world. In this month’s Ilm o Amal, TRC staff discusses ways teachers can prioritize their own needs for far-reaching benefits.
Taking care of their health is crucial for teachers because on an average day the profession demands plenty of energy, stamina and mental agility. While stress is almost to be expected in modern times, chronic job stress can cause teachers to feel burnt out and the ripple effects can be felt by their families, their students and their colleagues. Teachers experiencing burnout can feel exhausted, frustrated and depressed. Here are some tips you can implement during the summer vacation and continue during the school year to stay healthy and feel confident.
You probably tell your students to drink enough water. It is time to take that advice yourself. It is easy to forget to drink water while you work or accomplish chores however; you need to hydrate if you want your body to function optimally. In fact by the time you start feeling thirsty you are well on your way to feeling dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and try and drink at least 10 glasses a day. If you have headaches, drinking water may help reduce the severity.
Use breathing exercises regularly for times when you feel stressed. Concentrate on slow, deep breathing because this will help you disengage from distracting thoughts and help you focus.
To start taking deep breaths, first take a normal breath. Then breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise. Next breathe out slowly through your mouth. Check out this YouTube video on breathing deeply to reduce anxiety and stress https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ04nsiz_M0 (skip to 3.10 where she explains the technique).
Regular exercise can help teachers stave off anxiety and depression. Physical activity can also slow down cognitive decline and improve your overall health. You don’t need to register in a gym to exercise though. You can opt for a more slow-paced activity such as walking. As you exercise you will notice that you become fitter and your stamina and energy levels will increase. This will also lift any mental fog you may be experiencing. Exercise also causes your levels of endorphin to rise, helping you feel good about life.
Try to do some yoga or simple stretches before going into work every day. Try this 5-minute yoga routine we found on Youtube to help you wake up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wx_S6wiqOI. While at work, find ways to be more active, such as walking to a colleague’s desk instead of emailing or texting him or her.
If you are sleep deprived, you can become irritable, forgetful and inefficient at work. A good night’s sleep is important for teachers mainly because they will be managing a classroom full of energetic children the next day. Turn off the lights at bedtime every night and get some restorative sleep. A dark room signals to the body that it is time to rest. Aim to get 8 hours of slumber.
Don’t skip breakfast, and try to have healthy meals during the day. Avoid quick fixes such as cookies and chocolate to snack on. The sugar fix gives you a temporary buzz, but this is deceptive as you are likely to experience a sugar crash soon after. During the school year, you can pack a healthy lunch from home. Become more mindful about what you are eating and add some nuts and fruit in your lunch bag to give yourself a healthy option for snacking.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Teachers are on their feet all day, so it makes sense to take care of them. However while we do a lot to stay healthy, many of us do not think of our feet and how they may be affecting our health. Wearing uncomfortable shoes can have a negative impact on our personal well-being, body and health. Invest in comfortable shoes that will see you through the day.
Set a time to go to sleep everyday and switch off your phone at a particular time every day. During the school year, block out half an hour and do something that is not work related.
While eating lunch or dinner, make a conscious effort to just eat and connect with your family and friends. Avoid looking at your phone and make it a point to eat mindfully.
Learn something new
Get those grey cells working everyday! It will help you grow. You can learn something new from an online forum such as TED Talks or you can read a book you wanted to read for a long time, but never found the time to. The summer is the best time to do that. You can also read up on the latest research about how our mind works. Make a note of it and file it away, so you can share it with your colleagues or with your students at an appropriate time.
When you are stressed out over long periods of time, it can be difficult to help your family or your students. In an environment with high levels of stress you may find it difficult to cope, regulate your emotions and even to empathise with someone. Because of the nature of their work, teachers who take out time for self care can benefit everyone, from their families to their students.
Connect with Friends and Family
Teaching can be lonely even if you are surrounded by children every day. Make an effort to connect with your colleagues and friends outside school. You don’t always have to meet to eat together. You can connect and go for walks, join an exercise programme together or meet for beauty treatments. Laugh, vent and unwind during these meets.
Are you putting yourself at the bottom of your list?
This summer make a conscious effort to prioritize yourself. The way a teacher prioritizes herself affects her personal and professional goals. It is wrong to assume that taking the time out to care for yourself is selfish. When you prioritize yourself, you set a healthy example for your family, friends and students. Self care is not a luxury. When you prioritize self care you help your personal and professional life run smoothly and help yourself cope with those inevitable challenges.