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Staying Balanced and Healthy as a Teacher: Tips from Your Colleagues

November 29, 2017
Maintaining Balance as a Teacher

What helps you stay balanced and healthy despite the demands of being a teacher? We surveyed corps members and alumni teachers about this question, and here’s what some of your colleagues said:

DON’T SKIMP ON SLEEP

As teachers, we never seem to have enough time to accomplish all that we need and want to in one day. So getting less sleep can seem like a good solution, but resist the urge! The number-one tip from fellow teachers is not to skimp on sleep. If you need more convincing, this TED playlist helps Kristine (Tulsa 2017), remember just how important it is to get her zzzzs.

Here are more sleep-related tips we received:

  • Use a white noise sleep machine in your room at night. Alternatively, you can use the Sleep Pillow app for calming white noise and nature sounds.
     
  • Set—and follow—a schedule for the hours after school is done for the day to make sure you get enough sleep. “Even if I'm not done with what I'm doing, schoolwork gets put away by 8:30 and I'm in bed by 9:30 (I feel like a grandma, but it really does help!),” Alexis (Memphis 2017) says.
     
  • Set a bedtime alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time to head to sleep.
     
  • When it comes to naps, you're better off sleeping for only 20 minutes—to stay in a light sleep—or in full 90-minute increments, so you can go through a full sleep cycle and don’t wake up groggy. For more tips check out "A Teacher’s Guide to Power Napping Like a Pro."

GET MOVING

Many of you shared that taking time to exercise—even just 10-30 minutes per day—goes a long way in helping you stay healthy and balanced. Running and yoga top the list of preferred activities, but anything that requires physical activity focuses your mind so you can stop thinking about the endless tasks that accompany teaching. Here are more tips:

  • Find a workout buddy to keep you accountable. A dog can play this role, too, and several of you shared that your dog makes sure you get out for a walk before and after school. Even better, go sans cell phone and take in fresh, new things for a few minutes, without the stress and distraction of texting or emailing.
     
  • When it comes to yoga, favorite approaches among the teachers we surveyed included aerial yoga—recommended as “a great combination of physical health and mental health that is equally fun and relaxing”—and the YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne, which is free and perfect for lunchtime practice.
     
  • When it comes to exercise, Breanna (Metro Atlanta 2016) recommends the Nike Training Club App “to keep me on track with customizable workout plans based on your time and intensity preferences.” Shelby (Rio Grande Valley 2014) says, “I like BBG exercises for short intense workouts.”
     
  • Jennifer (New Jersey 2015) shares that at her school, “We implemented weekly staff workouts that take place during our after-school prep run by our physical education teacher.”

EAT RIGHT

Erin (Detroit 2012) summarizes teachers' conundrum when it comes to healthy eating: “No teacher has time to cook an elaborate meal, but eating healthy goes a long way toward wellness and feeling your best in front of kids!” To address this problem, many of you do meal prep on Sundays for the full week. If you need some inspiration, try #teachermealprep#teacherlunch, or check here or here for ideas. 

Many of you are also trying to reduce your sugar intake and keep nutrient-dense snacks on hand. We know that prepping isn’t always possible, and so Aaron (Indianapolis 2017) suggests, “Aldi (and many other grocery markets) have ready-to-eat salad in a bag for like two bucks apiece. Cheap, easy, healthy.”

MEDITATE

The teachers we surveyed all concur with the research proving meditation is a powerful way to take care of yourself. “Meditation helps clear my head so I can focus and be present for my role and show up for kids to the best of my ability,” says Danielle (Greater New Orleans ’10). One teacher says she and some colleagues gather to meditate in her classroom for 10 minutes before the school day begins.

There are many websites and apps available to help you establish a meditation practice, including:

SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOURSELF

How you report spending your free time ranges from Sunday football marathons with friends and family to cooking borscht; however, you agree that scheduling time to do things you love is a must. Here’s how some of you make it happen:

  • “I keep the entirety of Sunday for myself and only do things that make me feel content, like reading a book, going to Target, hiking, or even just playing with my cat.” (Alexis, Memphis 2017)
     
  • “I schedule one specific day per week to work on grad school work. I schedule my ‘me time’ in my schedule just like I would a doctor’s appointment or class. It’s non-negotiable.” (Meghan, New York City 2017)
     
  • “My wellness suggestion is to take one day and do nothing school related and keep it for yourself. Friday nights after school I️ run, watch a movie, make my favorite snack, and hang out with friends. I️ don’t allow myself to do any work. Usually Saturday I️ feel recharged and ready to plan pretty early on!” (Selena Buffalo 2017)
     
  • “One wellness tip that has made a huge difference for me is planning out some time each day of the week to get work done (not more than an hour and a half) so that the weekend is all to myself. I started doing this mid-October and being able to completely unplug from teaching on Saturday and Sunday has made a huge difference.” (Alexis Delaware 2017)

DON’T BOTTLE UP YOUR STRESS

“Find your person you can talk it out with,” advises Meredith (Memphis 2017). It can be a roommate, partner, family member, or therapist. Teaching is hard and emotional, so as Samy (Arkansas 2017) says, “Don't be afraid to go see a therapist. We deal with a lot of heavy stuff sometimes and there isn't anything wrong with needing to process.”

MORE OF YOUR TIPS FOR WELLNESS

Write: Engage in expressive writing, keep a gratitude journal, or simply take a few moments daily to jot down your emotions.

Get outdoors: Many of you like walks or hikes, and if you’re lucky, weekly beach trips. Try the AllTrails App to find local options.

Use an app to help: Some other apps you like are Omvana, Mood 24/7, Lantern and Beeminder, which Michael (Bay Area 2017) says he uses to “turbocharge my accountability to self-care commitments (working out, sleeping early, meditating, journaling). If I don't do an activity a certain amount of times a week the app charges me $10—haven't missed a day of meditating since August because of the power of loss aversion!”

Get a massage: Hally (Hawaii 2012) shares, “I've found massages really help and actually asked my doctor for a prescription for them.” For lower prices, check out Groupon, Living Social, or local massage schools.

Aromatherapy: “I use awesome smelling stuff (aromatherapy) throughout the day to help me relax and as pick-me-ups,” Meghan (New York City 2017) shares.

Keeping on top of grading:  Based on some tips from a popular teaching blog, Casey (Houston 2017) says, “I️ set aside time each day to grade papers. Whether I️ add extra wiggle time, or a short partner assignment following a lesson, I’m able to knock out quick grading. I️ put them into the computer before I️ leave for the day and voila! I’m never behind or overwhelmed by massive piles of papers.”

What do you do to stay healthy and balanced?