Fall is the unofficial New Year, especially for teachers. It is a time of change, new routines and new goals. It is also a time to conserve valuable energy so that there is enough to last all year round. The nature of teaching is demanding and many throw themselves with renewed vigor into September only to crash by November. With the teachers in my naturopathic practice, the fall theme for self-care is ‘Energy Hygiene’.
How can you boost your energy and prevent a first-semester burn-out? Consider the following suggestions for lifestyle choices, dietary habits and supplementation to increase your energetic currency.
- Start the day before you even get out of bed with a positive affirmation. Positive words and thoughts have been shown to decrease stress and promote wellness.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Your brain’s preferred meal is breakfast. It needs the protein, fat and carbohydrates to fire up neurons and function throughout the day. Teachers in particular can’t afford to skip meals because their schedule doesn’t allow for easy grazing. Does breakfast upset your stomach? Try a protein-packed breakfast smoothie to get the day started.
- Consume coffee AFTER a meal. Coffee is energy we have to pay back later – especially when taken on an empty stomach. Coffee spikes cortisol, a stress hormone, which causes sugar levels to rise and then crash. The crash leaves us hungry and stressed. You can prevent the crash by consuming coffee on a full stomach, when coffee will not have as large an impact.
- Schedule snack-packing nights. Packing a snack box is about time management. Most of the teachers I work with find Sunday a good day to pick 2 hours to cut up vegetables, mix up a legume salad, or bake protein-packed muffins. Your supply should be for two snacks throughout the day in addition to your lunch. These should be nutrient dense with protein or fats to help keep you satiated and energized.
- Hydrate. Teachers tend to avoid drinking too much water because it isn’t always easy to slip off to the washroom. However, poor hydration has long-term health consequences. It leads to an increased sense of hunger and can be responsible for weight gain. It also affects energy metabolism and your ability to attend and remember. Dehydration can cause headaches, irritation, dry skin, & urinary tract infections. Ensure you are drinking at least one 4-ounce glass per hour. Include more nutrient-dense forms of hydration in your diet, including soups, smoothies, fruits and vegetables that will hydrate without making you urinate.
- Breathe. You do not have to leave your classroom or close your eyes to focus on your breath. Breathing helps to carry oxygen to your muscles, easing tension and increasing energy. Once per hour, for 1-2 minutes, focus on your breath. If you are holding your breath (a sure sign of stress!) attempt to reinstate your natural breath with 4-5 inhales and exhales.
- Supplement the adrenals. There are many herbs & supplements that can help support energy. One gland that almost all teachers need support with is the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland secretes cortisol, which helps recruit the energy we need to deal with stress. However, when it becomes depleted (from repeated stresses) many health issues emerge including fatigue, depression, weight gain, thyroid issues and even fertility issues. Try high-EPA fish oil, multi-b-vitamin and an adrenal-specific supplement to keep your energy levels soaring.
The important thing to remember is that you will be unable to teach or help others without energy. A check-in with yourself 2-3 times throughout the day (every day) is a simple practice that can help you to understand ways in which you loose and gain energy. Once you have identified your daily energy demands you can begin to make different choices about where you put your energy.