We appreciate that as a teacher you have one of the most stressful yet rewarding careers, and as such you could probably do with a few hints and tips for looking after yourself. When your working life is dedicated to nurturing young minds it can be easy to forget about looking after your own well-being. Here we share our top self-care tips for teachers.
Why is self-care so important?
Just like an actor or a singer the nature of your work as a teacher means that your body and mind are at the forefront of what you do. If you’re stood behind a till or sat at a desk you might be able to survive a day nursing a hangover or feeling a bit under the weather, but unfortunately this doesn’t translate to the life of a teacher. When you’re not feeling your best sooner or later it will show in your teaching. You can think of self-care as caring for your ‘instrument’.
1. Surround Yourself with the Right People
We don’t need to tell you that you’ve chosen one of the most demanding professions. Do yourself a big favour and surround yourself with supportive positive people; when your work takes up such a vast proportion of your time can you really justify spending your precious down time with anyone other than great friends? Getting to know other teachers and building up a support network can be one of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher.
2. Get Some Sleep
Waking early to prepare the classroom, writing teaching plans or marking work late into the night are not conducive to a good night’s sleep, but there are some tips you can follow to make sure that you reach the land of nod quicker once you get the opportunity:
- Resist The Phone – Ever find yourself reaching for your phone to ‘quickly check your emails’ when you’re in bed? Resist the temptation to use devices when you’re trying to sleep as the blue light they emit simulates daylight keeping you alert. If you must check those emails make sure you turn the brightness on your screen down.
- Keep Warm – Warm hands and feet are key to deep sleep. You could warm them up for sleep by wearing socks and keeping your hands under the covers.
- Steer Clear of All-Nighters – Especially during exam season it can be tempting for a teacher to pull an all-nighter, but the hippocampus (the part of the brain which transforms short term memory into long term memory) requires sleep to function properly so you’re unlikely to be helping yourself.
3. Eat & Drink Right
Most experts recommend that you drink 2 litres of water a day. If you struggle to remember what you’ve drunk you can find bottles with the time printed on them in many high street stores. Keeping hydrated is essential for a teacher as you rely on your voice for your profession and it improves your appearance as well as your digestion, which keeps weight off.
When you’re always in a rush to leave early for work it can be difficult to fit breakfast in, but its worth getting up that little bit earlier for the benefits associated with the first meal of the day. Eggs, greek yoghurt and nuts are some healthy choices with sugary and starchy foods on the ‘to avoid’ list as they can cause an energy crash later in the day. Eating breakfast keeps snack cravings at bay and helps you retain focus throughout the day. If your blood sugar levels dip it can cause your mood to deteriorate. This can be avoided by snacking on healthy foods like nuts or fruit every three to four hours.
4. Exercise Regularly
We appreciate that the life of a teacher is demanding, but exercising for at least 30 minutes a day puts you in a positive state of mind and will help give you momentum. If you can’t afford a gym membership you could take up jogging in your local park or hiking. Your brain interprets the heart pressure increase as you fleeing from or fighting an enemy so releases the protein BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) to protect it from stress. The protein is both protective and restorative acting like a reset switch to make you feel at ease and happy.
5. Alone Time
When you’ve got a heavy workload it can be tempting to work through any time you’d normally allow for relaxing. Taking five minutes out of your busy day to be alone and yourself rather than the teacher somewhere you feel comfortable can help you reset and be more productive for the rest of your day. This should be a room or location you exclusively visit to relax; perhaps your own or a public garden, a bench nearby or your sofa.
6. Clear Your Head After Work
Relaxing and finding time for yourself after work is crucial to maintaining that illusive teacher work-life balance. Whether its a short walk around your local area, chilling out with your duvet in front of a film or having a nice soak in the bath, make sure you take some time out when you get home to clear your head of the day’s stresses.
7. Mindfulness As A Means of Coping With Difficult Emotions
Becoming conscious of your own behaviour in relation to difficult pupils can help you to be more thoughtful in your responses to challenging scenarios, rather than reacting automatically. Think about a difficulty you’ve had with a pupil and remember not only how you felt but how your body reacted eg. stiff shoulders, tense stomach. When you feel yourself responding this way again deliberately avoid it. You’ll find yourself questioning your own behaviour and reacting in a more productive way thereby making the classroom a much less stressful place and you a more respected teacher.
8. Make A List
Since good organisation is so key to teaching you’ll be no stranger to a list. Identifying specifically what makes you stressed at work can help you to tackle the problem. Divide your list into two columns; stress you can minimise and stress you have no control over. You should be able to come up with ways of minimising the first column.
9. Start The Day In A Calm Atmosphere
Take a few minutes before your classroom is full and you enter teacher mode to sit alone with some relaxing music and maybe a book. This will put you in the right mindset for the rest of the day and hopefully your students will follow your lead.
10. Manage Your Workload
No teacher can expect to handle everything in one go; make manageable to do lists for each day based on any free time you have that day. There are so many variables which can affect the amount of time you have to focus on work unrelated to the lessons you’re teaching, so don’t stress yourself out if you occasionally can’t manage the whole list in the time you wanted to.
Side Note: Don’t Forget To Take Care of Your Voice
Thank you for reading all our teachers self-care tips, we hope you’ve found them useful. Hydration was mentioned earlier in this article and its importance really can’t be stressed enough but this wouldn’t be a Vocalzone article without a shameless plug at the end, so here goes:
When used in combination with good hydration, the powerful formula in our pastilles and tea help you keep a clear voice.