Staying healthy as a teacher isn’t always easy. Having a healthy immune system can seem like a legend. Something you hear about, but haven’t actually seen for very long. Each year as my kids head back to school & I start teaching my students once again, I try to set up healthy habits. Especially since I know there are a few truths that come with teaching.
- Somewhere between weeks 2 & 4 of teaching after a break the majority of my students will come down with a cold … the same cold my kids are getting exposed to at their school.
- The lice notice & possible pink eye notices will arrive sometime after month 2-3 of school. And, not all parents will think it’s a big deal.
Rather than be frustrated by these truths, we can make changes that keep us, & in turn the families we see, healthy this year.
Give your immune system a boost
You are probably dealing with viruses from a wide variety of schools & extra curricular activities that your students are a part of. If you are travelling to your students’ homes, there is no way to control the cleanliness of where you are teaching. Different people have different levels of acceptable cleanliness.
Rather than bemoan the hoards of viruses & germs headed your way, take action! There are a wide variety of ways to boost your immune system. I am not a nutritionist, herbalist or doctor. However, these are the ways I have found to help me stay healthy, or at least reduce the severity & length of illnesses. As always, it is best to check with your medical professional if you are unsure whether something will be right for you.
Stay healthy with food & drink
What we put into our bodies is what fuels those bodies. A healthy immune system relies on those nutrients to stay strong.
Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated helps your body flush out all the stuff that does it no good. Plus, it helps us stay alert & ready to think on our feet.
On my office days, I bring a 32-oz. canning jar filled with water or cooled tea. The jar sits next to me & I absentmindedly take sips for the jar throughout my work. I’ve learnt the hard way that while I will get up periodically while working, I won’t make the effort to go fill the jar. So, it HAS to have enough water/tea to get me through to lunch.
While I teach, I always bring a water bottle or travel tea thermos so that I can take quick sips either while teaching or driving between homes. It helps me stay hydrated throughout my teaching day & saves my voice from getting raspy.
Eat yogurt or take a probiotic each day.
In my case, I have non-dairy yogurt every morning. It has good bacteria (I know! Who knew there was such a thing?) that helps promote good gut health. Scientists are realizing that our gut has a huge impact on our health, both positive & negative. When I do not have access to the non-dairy yogurt or want to make something else, a probiotic still gives my system the boost it needs.
Take Vitamin C when you are exposed to more viruses.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that covers a lot of different functions. However, we go through more vitamin C when our bodies are under stress … like perhaps fighting off infections. This may be why we crave oranges & other citrus fruits when we have a cold. When I notice my students are sniffling & blowing their noses at lesson, I start having vitamin C every day until I notice the trend slows down.
And, when I come home after teaching a sick child? I drink ¼ – ½ cup of lemon juice before even saying hi to my family. I knew a city bus driver years ago that claimed to drink 1 cup of lemon juice every morning & had not be sick for over 10 years. After tasting lemon juice by itself I decided that it would only be drunk straight up in dire circumstances. The added benefit of the lemon juice is that it has anti-bacterial & anti-microbial qualities! (There are many articles online regarding these properties … but, after trying to read through multiple studies, I opted not to link any into the article & risk you falling asleep.)
Routines That Keep You Healthy
Keep hand disinfectant in your teaching bag (or next to the piano).
Since I have no control over the environment that I walk into, I keep my hand disinfectant with me at all times. This ensures that I can use it on my hands between homes to stop the spread of viruses, bacteria & germs. In dire circumstances, I have also used it on my teaching bag, teaching supplies, & tablets if they really needs to be cleaned before the next home. (For example, the parent that doesn’t cancel lessons even though pink eye is in the home.)
Keep extra tissue in your teaching bag (or next to the piano).
Colds happen. Put a bunch of people in a building for hours each day & viruses will spread. And, let’s face it. Kids are not exactly great at keeping themselves clean.
We hope that families will have tissue on hand for runny noses, but much like moms at the playground I like to come prepared. If I don’t see tissue close at hand & know my student will spend too much time looking for the box, I just hand them a tissue. Which leads to my next tip …
Promote good hand washing.
Have students wash their hands before lesson. You CAN send a student to wash their hands even when you are teaching in their home.
If a student sneezes, coughs, puts their fingers in an orifice, or has touched something that makes their hands unclean (i.e. food, slime, pet slobber, etc.), I send them to wash their hands with soap. And, I do specify that they need to use soap. You would be surprised what kids consider washing their hands to be (including our own)! We tell our twins that it doesn’t count as washing when the soap slides off the moment the water touches their hands. It needs to FOAM.
If you teach in your home or a studio space, scented hand soap makes it easy to tell if someone did the “soap slide” or created a bunch of soapy bubbles.
Get enough sleep.
Each person is different & the amount of sleep you need will change over the course of your life. If you wake up tired though, this is an indicator that you are not getting enough rest. And, if you have young children … I’m sorry. You are just going to be tired. But! I promise you will get sleep again … eventually.
When I don’t get enough sleep, I crave junk food. The more salt the better for foods & then lots of sugary iced tea to drink. But, this isn’t a great option for the long term & is best kept for occasional treats. Plus, the sugar crash just isn’t worth it!
Try to practice good sleep habits. A regular bedtime & a regular bedtime routine aren’t just for kids. A bedtime routine gets your mind focused on falling asleep while a regular bedtime ensures you are getting enough sleep each night.
This one has been a tough one for me in the past. Boy did I notice a drop in my energy levels &, at times, a drop in my moods as well. But, making exercise a daily habit keeps me going … and not to the junk food.
The benefits of regular exercise go beyond a healthy weight. These benefits include everything from higher energy levels, improved mood, reduced risks for many diseases & even helps us sleep better at night.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, adding little bits to your daily routine (i.e. take the stairs instead of an escalator, stand for at least part of the time you are teaching) can get the ball rolling. Then, add in a couple classes or times of increased physical activity throughout the week.
Having a Healthy Immune System
To read the Part 2 of these top 12 tips to stay healthy, click below.
What are your favourite ways of staying healthy during the teaching year?
Share below in the comments. Let’s set ourselves up for a healthy academic year!
[NOTE: This is a rewrite of an article from September 15, 2017. It has all the great ideas from before, plus more!]