Last night, after a long day at school, I was so exhausted. I decided it was time to go to bed, but when I looked at my watch, it was 5:30 p.m. And I bet there were thousands of teachers across the country who had the same exact experience. Teachers need to be on point every minute of the day, and that can be tough to keep up with. Here are some tips to help you increase your teacher energy.
1. Get Some Exercise
Trust me, if someone told my fatigued self to go exercise on a night like the one I described above, I'd want to jump into this page and conk them, too. But it's the truth. Robert Gotlin, DO, a specialist in sports medicine, says "the benefits of exercise for your energy level are two-fold: exercise boosts your body's fitness and also your mood, both of which contribute to your overall health and well-being." Working out with a buddy can help—I see fellow teachers doing laps in our courtyard or climbing stairs in pairs. It only takes a few weeks to make a habit, and when you're sleeping better and your mood is lifted, you'll want to make exercise a regular part of your day.
Further reading: 10 Tips and Truths of Living with a Teacher
2. Eat the Right Foods
I work at a school where kids sell candy for fundraisers, and you can bet these kids know who their best customer is—they're waiting for me at my classroom door every single day. Candy and other sugar products are portable and inexpensive, but despite their initial high, they come with a crash that can make you irritable and fatigued.
Instead of consuming sugary treats, eat plenty of foods that will increase your energy, including lentils, tuna, beans, whole-grain cereal, oranges, nuts, wild salmon, pumpkin seeds, apples, bananas, spinach, and blueberries. Many of these foods are portable and can be stashed in your desk drawer to eat between bells.
I'm a huge fan of the book How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger, which argues that a plant-based diet can reduce inflammation, increase energy, and prevent and reverse disease. Sadly, the lure of a Big Mac often pulls me off course, but I always regret it when I'm lethargic and miserable an hour later. When I eat a diet based on the fruits and vegetables Dr. Greger recommends, however, I find myself healthier, happier, and more energetic.
3. Drink the Right Drinks
I was thinking about putting this at the end of the article so you wouldn't stop reading, but this is important: I hate to tell you, but those nightly glasses of wine need to go. While a small amount of alcohol can help make you drowsy, Harvard Medical School warns it can also interfere with your sleep quality or cause nighttime awakenings. Alcohol may account for 10 percent of cases of insistent insomnia.
Even coffee and caffeinated sodas won't help you. Unless you continue to drink them throughout the day (and I know plenty who do), you'll crash midday and end up cranky and irritable. And don't even think about sucking down an energy drink to get through that 6th-period slump. Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and other substances, and they can cause heart and blood vessel issues, anxiety, and sleep and digestive problems. Giving up caffeine altogether can help you distribute your energy more effectively throughout the day. When I give up caffeine, I find that my coping skills are much better, and I'm less likely to lose my temper or fall asleep in the ladies' room.
The best beverage for boosting energy isn't a so-called "energy" drink; it's good, old-fashioned water. Harvard Medical School points out that because 50-60 percent of our body weight is water, and because we're constantly losing water through urine and sweat, our bodies feels fatigued and weak when they're short on fluids. Be sure to replenish your body with water and water-filled fruits and vegetables to help maintain your energy.
4. Don't Smoke
You don't need me to tell you that you need to stop smoking. But what you may not know is that according to Harvard Medical School, "smoking actually siphons off your energy, causing insomnia." Further, "the nicotine in tobacco is a stimulant, so it speeds the heart rate, raises blood pressure, and stimulates brain wave activity associated with wakefulness, making it harder to sleep." Just some more reasons to stop smoking.
5. Distance Yourself from People Who Zap Your Energy
Last year, I recommended a book called The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy. Author Jon Gordon offers tips for increasing energy, such as, "Invite people on your bus and share a vision for the road ahead" and, "Don't waste energy on those who don't get on your bus." He recommends posting a sign that says "No Energy Vampires Allowed," and he reminds us that "enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride." In schools, it's easy to get caught up in negativity. Focusing on the positive can help you stay energetic and hopeful.
Further reading: How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Teacher
Teacher energy doesn't need to be an end-of-the-day oxymoron. Take these tips to heart and make sure to use your breaks to rest, rejuvenate, and relieve stress. If you pair rest with these other five secrets, you'll keep up the energy you need to make it to the end of the year!