Here are some adjectives that I often describe myself as when I am run down and feeling...well let's just say it how it is, feeling like rubbish; sluggish, fat, fatigued, knackered, exhausted, beat and I'm sure many more. During a very hard and busy term, it's incredibly easy to begin to feel this way. But why? Yes, teaching is hard and demanding, but I love my job which has left me confused for a few years. I enjoy teaching, with great job and self satisfaction on a daily basis, so why am I feeling like a hippo that would rather float around in a pool of mud???
Raise your hand if you recognise these following bad habits: holding the need to pee because you're in the middle of a lesson, struggling through the pain of your over flowing bladder because as you were on the way to the toilet, you got side-tracked by a parent or your boss who just had to speak to you at that very moment; missing your snack breaks because you've got to get the homework marked and back out to the pupils that same day in order to re-set new homework, plus you're on lunch duty so it's now 3pm and you realise you've not eaten since breakfast; you've been teaching back to back lessons all day so you've forgotten to drink water and now realise as you are sending your pupils home that you're dehydrated because your headache is starting and your tongue is sticking to the roof of your mouth because you've been talking all day; after all of this, you feel exhausted, you're on your way home, the traffic is jammed and you know you've not got any food in the house...do you go to the shops or do you risk driving home thinking, oh well...beans on toast will be fine because all you want to do is get your PJs on and climb into bed; when you do the shopping finally, you've got your routine down to such a fine art that you can be in and out of the shop in 15 mins flat because you always pick up the same ingredients...pretty much every week; you're home, you cram in your beans on toast and eat it fast because you're literally starving and then sit down to finish your marking/planning and other after hours activities as well as juggling family life; after all of this it's finally time for bed and knowing that you have to be up for work at 5.30/6/6.15/6.30am (after the 4th alarm) it would be best to go to bed by 9pm knowing that you should be asleep by 10pm in order to get your recommended 8 hours sleep. However, you've had such a rushed day, you decide that eating in bed with your favourite food & drinks whilst watching/reading your favourite TV show/book is just awesome and after the fourth episode/chapter or 3rd hour on twitter/facebook/google+ you look at the clock and it's now midnight. 5 hours sleep. Oh well...and then it's Tuesday...repeat x 4!
Does any of this sound familiar?
We professionals all know and appreciate that teaching is not just a job, it's our lifestyle. There's me thinking I was a good teacher because my class were performing well, students & parents were happy, I was managing my work load well...as best as I could, so why did I feel so sluggish? I stood back and really spent some time reflecting on what it was that I was missing or doing wrong! This process took me about a year and then all of a sudden I fell ill with a severe bladder infection! Not nice, but I realised then that I was managing my job very well, but at the cost of my health because it seemed that I had forgotten to go the toilet since I had...well, basically joined the profession back in 2007! A slight exaggeration, but the point is, in order to cope with the busy demands of our day to day job, I had unconsciously re-wired my body clock in more ways than I could have possibly imagined and ended up with some pretty bad habits. Non of which hindered my ability to perform the job well, it was just at the cost of my overall health and feel good factor. I had put my body into fight mode! Fight or Flight as they say and mine was fighting!
As we all know, bad habits are difficult to break. I evaluated my behaviour and had become somebody that could work efficiently on 5 hours sleep with two meals a day, could hold the need to pee for about 7 hours and only drank about 3/4 cups of water a day. This wasn't good and needed to change. But I'm one of those unfortunate, slightly chubby girls whose metabolism got lost somewhere years ago, hates exercise and would rather mark than go to the gym...so you can imagine my enthusiasm for starting a new diet, with a new gym routine etc etc! I couldn't think of anything worse! At this point, I was much happier coping with tiredness, fatigue and sluggishness than I was the idea of working really hard at school, only to then have to face the gym after work as well. Some people are very fortunate to be active, have fast metabolisms or just enjoy exercising, but I'm not one of those and never have been.
So, how do people like us break these bad habits? If you're like me, you're great at your job. The fact that your body feels like hell probably means your classroom is in tip-top shape because it's your classroom that's getting all the attention right?? That means you're super efficient, organised and capable of setting up strong routines and boundaries as you do for your students. The only way I could find the ability to MOTIVATE myself was to re-set my health and fitness goals and add them to my CPD. Managing your health should be part of every teacher's CPD. It makes sense considering we spend 50-60 of our hours per week dedicated to our jobs. In my opinion, our health and fitness should be incorporated into our CPD and assessed every term, just like our lessons, child achievement and planning etc.
As a collective group of colleagues who shared some similar bad habits, we worked as a team to compare and contrast those teachers who were successfully maintaining their health against those who weren't. The results were so simple that I couldn't believe after all these years I had not been doing these essential yet easy things. No gym memberships needed at all! Below are the main things I wasn't and should have been doing.
1) SLEEP - 8 to 9 hours every night without fail. This step cannot be compromised.
2) WATER - Drink 3 litres every day. Not, 1, not 2, but 3 for your body to be functioning at its optimal rate.
3) TOILET BREAKS - Before lessons, at every break/lunch time, after school and more. Always remember to go, even if you don't need to!
4) EAT LITTLE & OFTEN - 4/5 smaller meals a day keeps your blood sugar levels consistent & fuel in your tank. (3 of these meals will be consumed during school hours so planning the night before is essential for this step...something I'm terrible at).
5) TAKE MULTIVITAMINS EVERY DAY with Ginseng (Extra vitamin C and Echinacea during cold seasons or whenever students in your class fall ill with colds). Carrying a small antibacterial hand sanitiser is a good idea as we teachers all know how easy it is to pick up bugs!
6) 20 MINS EXERCISE EVERY DAY - This can be absolutely anything and even broken down into x2 10 mins sessions which you could even do with your students in class if you can't fit it in at home.
7) CHANGE YOUR WEEKLY FOOD INGREDIENTS every week! Throw a curve ball at your diet by changing what you eat. Our bodies are incredible machines that can adapt to any environment and even your food. You don't want to be feeding your body with the same ingredients as it will learn to maintain itself. For weight loss, you need variety.
8) KEEP YOUR WORK AT SCHOOL - Everybody works differently and some prefer to leave work earlier and take work home rather than stay an extra hour longer, but managing your time to the point that where possible you can leave work at school, will leave you feeling lighter, less anxious and allow you more time to relax at home with your family.
As Albert Einstein said himself;