Teaching, like parenting, is humbling, exhausting, yet intensely rewarding. Blessed with profound purpose yet overburdened and chronically stressed. The more stress we bear, the more critical our self-care. Yet prioritizing ourselves often seems impossible in our frenetic lives. As the maxim goes, “put on your own oxygen before assisting others.” While it took me several episodes of burnout, where caring for others is mentally and physically impossible, I can testify to the simple habits we can all adopt to assure better health and resilience.
Teachers, as role models, profoundly influence the health and productivity of our rising generations. Prioritizing your health requires practicing self-compassion, ditching perfectionism (toxic for you and for anyone you teach), and nurturing a daily gratitude habit. Decades of studying human nature bring me to conclude: Happiness is a Verb, Attitude is a Choice, and Gratefulness is the Action Plan
Here are a few micro-steps to consider – start with 3 you can implement easily today. After practicing those for 3 weeks, add one or two more.
Habits for healthy mornings:
- Before getting out of bed, take 4-5 deep breaths while focusing on blessings in your life
- When possible, allow at least 10 minutes for a morning walk – listening to nature or a calming meditation, music, or uplifting podcast – or a fun online fitness class
- Front-load veggie intake with an organic greens drink or smoothie
- Prep a quick healthy breakfast ahead of time
- Have lunches and snacks prepped the night before; involve family members in the lunch and snack planning process
Habits for fitness on a busy day:
- Deep squats or balance poses while brushing teeth
- Push-ups or planks or yoga poses while shower warming up or coffee brewing
- Tighten core muscles by sucking in your tummy when at stoplights or waiting for class to settle or computer to boot up (my 4th grade teacher had AMAZING abs from just this simple habit!)
- Walk or pace during phone calls or while waiting to pick up kids from practice
- Do 20 jumping jacks with your students after lunch or before sitting down to a challenging task
Habits for healthy food choices:
- Kick the soda or juice habit – even artificially sweetened drinks increase diabetes risk and aspartame is a neuro-excitotoxin, associated with headaches, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia
- Have healthy snacks readily available
- Plan meals & prep veggies on Sundays – make it a fun family affair
- Make extra and freeze half for future meals
- Load vegetables into soups, stews/chili, sauces, stir-frys/bowls, burritos/tacos, and smoothies
Habits for healthy stress management:
- BREATHE – take a few deep cleansing breaths every chance you get. Better yet, do this with your students or kids when stress levels escalate.
- Practice mindfulness – staying in the moment, attending to every sense, especially when you eat, play, or enjoy quality time with a loved one
- LAUGH and PLAY as often as possible
- Filter your inputs – read, listen to, watch that which inspires, uplifts, empowers while tuning out toxic inputs that incite fear, anger, resentment or shame
- Set healthy boundaries around media – no phones at family meals or when with friends, and put devices to bed at night
- Aim for 7-8hr quality sleep and seek medical care if you rarely wake refreshed – insufficient sleep magnifies everything negative in your life
You can learn more about my whole health approach at LifeScape Premier. I had no idea what “healthy” felt like until adopting these habits and now feel younger than I did 20 years ago. These habits enhance stress resilience, improve mood, stave off chronic disease, and slow aging. Wishing you the best of health because you deserve it!
Looking for more wellness tips? In our Educator Well-Being: Granting Grace and Hope webinar, Dr. Lisa Strohman and Angela Maiers shared current data about the state of educator mental health. They provided wellness strategies for educators to better care for themselves and their peers. Watch the webinar recording to bring grace and hope back to school with you this year.