Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP
Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Career "Makeover" Coach
For today's video message, click here.
School is starting. For many of my teacher friends who live in my geographic area, they went back to work today for their first full work week. The kids show up the day after Labor Day. For other of my teacher friends, they have been back to work almost a month already!
Regardless of where you are on the back-to-school spectrum, there are some health habits that I want you to commit to for this new school year. (This isn't just for teachers, either. ALL of us can benefit from practicing these habits.)
My mother used to say that "If you have your health, you have everything."
My mother used to say that "If you have your health, you have everything." As a nurse, she was acutely aware of how people who were sick were not enjoying the best that life has to offer. If you are sick, you can't work, you can't play, and you can't be all that you were meant to be.
Maintaining good health isn't a matter of luck, however. It takes being deliberate and practicing good, healthy habits. I have written a book about ways to manage stress and stay healthier. If you haven't gotten your copy of that (which is free) help yourself by downloading it here.
If you have attended one of my stress workshops, you may have heard me talk about these habits. I usually say there are 7 specific strategies that each of us needs to employ on a regular basis to be well and to manage our stress more effectively. Today, I am going to hit on 4 of them.
If you are a teacher, please note that you don't get to suspend these habits during the school year, waiting until summer break to pay attention to your health.
If you are a teacher, please note that you don't get to suspend these habits during the school year, waiting until summer break to pay attention to your health. I know teaching has increasingly become a job that has no beginning and end. It is way too easy to get caught up in the "musts" of teaching. "I must have a lesson plan written for every class of every day for the next week." "I must have papers graded and returned withing 24 hours." "I must spend my weekends planning and grading papers so I don't fall too far behind." And don't fall into the habit of thinking, "I don't have time to exercise." "I don't have the energy to think about healthy eating...just give me that cheeseburger!"
Of course, there are some things that go with teaching--or any other high-stress job like long hours, lots of planning and evaluation, meetings out the ying-yang...do I need to go on? But as an adult, it is your responsibility to set healthy boundaries and to try your best to strike a balance between work and your home life.
So, no matter what else feels like a priority of your this year, I urge you to undertake these four habits:
1) Exercise regularly. Your body was meant to move. New research shows that sitting for long periods of time can be as detrimental to your health as smoking ever was. If you are a teacher, you are probably moving a lot during the course of your day. You need to move in a way that allows you to let go of tension, however. Take a brisk walk. Go running. Go to the gym a few days a week. Go swimming at the Y...but do something that is physically taxing. It is good for your heart, your lungs, and your muscles. It will also help you keep the stresses of the day in perspective. You owe it to yourself to move.
2) Choose what you eat. It is far too easy to stop off at the closest drive-through fast food restaurant for a quick dinner. It is also too easy to have something for dinner that is full of sugar and carbs instead of protein and nutrients that your body needs for good health. It admittedly takes planning, but the fact is that your body needs the building blocks of protein and certain minerals and nutrients that are only found in whole foods like meat, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits. Nuts are also a good choice for quick pick-me-up snack during the day. There is plenty of information available from books and magazines about what makes for healthy eating. Make a commitment to yourself to eat well to maintain good health and plenty of energy.
3) Sleep enough. Sleep is often underrated although Arianna Huffington, formerly of Huffington Post and the book, Thrive, has gone a long way in evangelizing the importance of sleep. New research is showing the importance of getting enough sleep for overall health and wellbeing. Athletes need sleep after a hard workout, for example, because their muscles repair themselves during sleep in a way that they cannot do when one is awake. Even if you aren't an athlete, you need sufficient sleep to keep your hormones in proper balance and to keep your immune in good working order. Go to bed early enough each night so that you can get the 6 1/2 to 9 hours that YOU need in order to function at your optimum level. The amount of sleep that you need is unique to you, but the fact that you need a minimum of 6 1/2 hours is not. You will wind up dragging around and feeling irritable if you don't get the sleep you need, and going too long without sufficient rest sets the scene for an illness that can be as irritating a cold or sinus infection that drags you down. Not only that, but when you are fatigued, it is that much harder to maintain a healthy exercise regimen and to make good dietary choices.
4) Don't overwork yourself. This may be the one item that you feel you have the least control over, and I get that. From the moment you go back to school, your time stops feeling like it is your own. There are meetings to attend, papers to shuffle, plans to make and grades to be computed. As one young teacher said to me a few months ago, she just felt "used up." She was a theater teacher on top of being an English teacher. When her school day is over, she has play rehearsals to plan and she oversees and performances. These are activities over which you may have little choice, and I understand that. Do the best you can to pace yourself, however, and honestly, if you are diligent about the first three habits, you will be able to buy some extra energy and stamina for the long hours you may be required to put in at work.
As I said, whether you teach or not, you have a responsibility to yourself and your family to take care of yourself. You can't be your best if you aren't healthy and feeling well. Life is too short for you to squander your good health with poor habits.
I hope you will take this message to heart. It is a message that is near and dear to my heart. I learned the hard way. I worked so hard in my job as the President of the Virginia Education Association from 2008-2012 that I needed to take 6 months off to rest and recover. I didn't heed this advice and wasn't careful about any of these habits. Luckily, it didn't create more trouble for me that exhaustion. I might have wound up with a heart attack or some form of stress-induced cancer. I didn't realize at the time what risk I was putting myself at, however, and I thought the job was everything. As a result, I got a total of 7 days vacation in four years. No wonder I was exhausted when I left office.
Don't do that to yourself. Learn from my mistakes.
And don't forget to take advantage of the information in my book on how to manage your stress more effectively. It is my gift to you. Please feel free to download it here by clicking on the graphic below and offering an email address:
Until next time.