As well their duty of care for students, Media Focus teachers also need to look after themselves.
Professor Gail Kinman, a chartered psychologist and an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, shares three tips a day for the five days of the working week on things you can do to de-stress and promote a healthy mind, body, and soul. We challenge you to do one or all of these three things every day this week and tell us how they work for you by tweeting us via @GuardianTeach.
Include Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Topics in Health Education
- Teach students about healthy eating and physical activity recommendations.
- Encourage students to participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day, consume a healthy diet based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,3 and reduce sedentary screen time (e.g., television, video games, computer usage).
- Please encourage students to identify their own health behaviors and set personal goals for improvement.
- Incorporate health education into other subjects such as math and science.
- Extend healthy lessons outside of school by assigning homework for families to complete together.
- Meet with the school nurse to promote consistent health messages in your classroom. Consider asking the school nurse or other health services staff to lead a specific health lesson.
- Try relaxing for two minutes before your students arrive in the morning. Visualize the day ahead going as well as possible because this is good for the soul.
- At the first break of the day, step out of auto-pilot and clear your mind by eating a piece of fruit mindfully. Focus on the experience of eating without multi-tasking or your mind wandering.
- After work or during lunch, go for a walk on your own. Focus on what you see, smell, hear, taste and feel. Don’t use the time to make plans or dwell on problems.
Be a Healthy Role Model
- Model healthy behaviors to students by being active and consuming healthy foods and beverages.
- Get involved in your school’s employee wellness program or consider starting one.
- School wellness programs can include onsite opportunities for physical activity such as walking clubs, point-of-decision prompts that encourage the use of stairwells, increased access to healthy foods, educational activities such as lectures or written materials, skill-building activities, or reward programs.
- Think about how the week is going and watch for things that are starting to worry you. This will help you spot your trigger points and take remedial action.
- Halfway through the day, why not reduce muscle tension? Tense your shoulders without straining, then relax while breathing deeply. Feel the stress fading away.
- Tuesday should be a day for forgiveness. Most of us store up many negative emotions that could be released by forgiving ourselves and others.
Get enough sleep
You’re banging in the middle of the week, and making sure you feel refreshed is important; sleep is vital. Easier said than done when you’re worrying or feeling unwell, but one tip was to ensure your bedroom is warm for when you go up to the bed, but then turn the heating off and open a window before you go to sleep.
- Avoid the enemies of sleep. Keep a regular sleep schedule, have a relaxing bedtime routine, eat healthily and get regular exercise.
- Try the three-minute breathing space during lunchtime. Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Your mind will wander; gently bring it back.
- You could also take a five-minute lunchtime vacation. Picture yourself in the most relaxing place you can imagine. You will feel more refreshed on your return.
Make Celebrations and Fundraisers Healthier
- Encourage parents to provide healthy foods and beverages for birthday and classroom parties if food is served.
- Send a note to parents suggesting healthier options, such as fruits, vegetables, or whole-grain snacks.
- Consider non-food celebrations such as guest speakers, an extra recess period, or class games.
- Use healthy foods, physical activity events, or non-food items for fundraising activities.
- Consider selling items such as produce, wrapping paper, candles, or student artwork.
- Organize events that engage students, families, and the community. Basketball or golf tournaments, bicycle rides, walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, car washes, or auctions are healthy fundraising alternatives.
- Laughing has wide-ranging benefits, improving cardiovascular health and helping you connect with others, so start the day with a chuckle.
- Challenge negative self-talk. Work on reducing the “should/shouldn’t/must” statements to reduce stress and increase confidence.
- Identify a buffer zone. Respite from work demands is essential for health and performance. What can you do after work to help you recover?
When Friday arrives, it is time to switch off that mental filter. You’re almost at the weekend, and it’s time to relax and wind down from work.
Create A Physically Active Classroom
- Incorporate movement into academic lessons or add short bursts of activity (5-20 minutes) to regularly planned break times.
- Read a book aloud while students walk at a moderate pace around the room, and then ask students to identify the verbs or action words in the book by acting them out through physical activity.
- Take students for a walk indoors or outdoors as part of a science lesson.
- Include content about fitness, movement skills, and the importance of physical activity as part of math, science, or writing lesson plans.
- Work with the physical education teacher to get ideas, information, and resources to help students stay physically active throughout the school day.
- Make sure you eat regularly and stay hydrated. This is particularly important (but less likely) when we are busy and stressed.
- Think positive. Focusing on your negative traits and behaviors means that you turn a blind eye to your positive qualities.
- Make a list of things that help you relax. Then choose one and do it without feeling guilty.