While teaching can be a gratifying job, it is also riddled with serious stress. From classroom management issues to lack of instructional support, the stress that teachers carry can take a toll on their physical and mental well-being.
In fact, one recent study found that 75% of teachers reported frequent job stress, which is three times the average stress of the general population. Let’s explore different tips for teachers to stay healthy and ways to help minimize the adverse effects of teacher stress to support their health and well-being.
Tips for maintaining a healthy classroom environment
Fostering and maintaining a healthy classroom environment can help ward off various illnesses to keep you and your students healthy.
1. Provide healthy classroom snacks
Your classroom is likely celebrating a variety of holidays and birthdays throughout the year. Rather than indulge in the typical sugary foods, consider offering healthy classroom snacks.
Healthy classroom snacks may include fruit, cheese, crackers, and yogurt which can help enhance concentration and provide sustained energy levels for optimal learning. Enjoying healthier snacks in the classroom can also help promote healthy eating at home.
One study showed that students' diets improved when schools offered healthier snacks throughout the day. These students began eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains at school and at home.
2. Disinfect classroom surfaces
Without proper disinfection, your classroom can become a Petri dish of germs that can quickly spread.
The best way to minimize the spread of germs is to regularly clean and sanitize the surfaces that are frequently touched. This may include tables, desks, toys, door handles, faucet handles, and computers.
3. Avoid sharing supplies
Sharing supplies like pencils, pens, crayons, paintbrushes, or toys can further promote the spread of germs. If possible, it’s best to create a set of necessary supplies for each student to help minimize the spread of germs.
4. Send a newsletter to parents
A classroom newsletter is a wonderful way to keep parents informed on what is happening in school and can also serve as a way to help mitigate the spread of illness within your classroom.
Remind parents to keep their kids at home if they are sick, and also encourage parents to support their child’s learning by ensuring they get adequate sleep. Additionally, the newsletter can offer tips for packing healthy snacks and lunches throughout the year.
5. Teach and encourage healthy hygienic habits
A healthy classroom begins by modeling good hygienic habits for your students.
It’s important to teach your students how to properly wash their hands, and encourage hand washing before eating, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
Tips for teachers to stay healthy
You may have heard the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.
One of the most important tips for teachers to stay healthy is knowing that to give to your students and your school community, you must first take care of yourself.
1. Ensure you’re up to date with vaccine shots
There is often a focus on the importance of routine immunization for students; however, teacher routine immunizations are just as important to help prevent the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Additionally, routine vaccines decrease potential sources of disease transmission between educators and students. Although immunization requirements for teachers can vary by state, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recommends a specific immunization schedule for adults ages 19 and older.
The CDC also recommends that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters should be encouraged for students, staff and teachers, as vaccination has proven to lessen transmission, the severity of disease, and death.
2. Know about common infections
While COVID-19 has been the focus for the past few years, there are other common kid infections that may be spreading throughout your classroom. For example, the highly transmissible common cold is likely to make its rounds.
This virus can be spread through respiratory droplets or by direct contact with viral particles and is often accompanied by a low-grade fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough.
The dreaded stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, is another highly contagious virus that may spread about the classroom. While short-lived (generally resolves within 72 hours), the stomach flu is characterized by abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a fever.
It may be hard to find the time to work out, but tracking your steps throughout the day may be just as effective as sweating it out at the gym.
In fact, a recent meta-analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 50,000 people found that walking between 8,000 and 10,000 steps per day for adults younger than 60 improved overall health and longevity.
Having trouble reaching your step goal? Try taking the stairs whenever possible and park further away from your destination.
4. Eat healthy snacks
While lunchtime may be rushed as a teacher, it’s important to fuel your body with nutritious snacks throughout the day. An ideal snack will provide some protein and some carbs to keep your blood sugars and energy levels stable.
Some examples of healthy snacks for teachers may include veggies with hummus, yogurt with fruit, or apple slices with peanut butter. Hot tea is also a healthy snack. Rosehip tisane is a great healthy beverage option with high levels of Vitamin C.
5. Change your clothes when you get home
Various germs can survive on your clothing for different amounts of time.
To be safe and mitigate the risk of transferring germs to surfaces or people within your household, you may consider changing your clothes when you get home from work.
6. Wash hands frequently
The number one way to keep germs from spreading is to wash your hands effectively (for at least 20 seconds) and frequently. If you don’t have access to a sink, you can use alcohol-based (with at least 60% alcohol) hand sanitizer or alcohol-based sanitizer wipes.
Teacher mental health is critical
Prioritizing your mental health can help you avoid the mental burnout that may accompany life’s stressors.
Practice meditation and mindfulness
Finding a quiet place and focusing on your breathing for even five minutes can reduce stress and burnout. Meditation and mindfulness practices can also support your overall physical and mental health.
Maintain a healthy support structure
Research has shown that having the support of colleagues, neighbors, and friends is linked with improved physical and mental health. Tough times are easier to brave when you have a system of support ready to catch you if you fall.
Urgent care is available for teachers
If you need help assessing and treating various conditions, come see the experts at one of our urgent care locations. You can walk in without an appointment, or save your spot online. We are open 365 days and during holidays. We’ll have you back to feeling better in no time.
- Steiner, Elizabeth D. and Ashley Woo, Job-Related Stress Threatens the Teacher Supply: Key Findings from the 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2021. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1108-1.html.
- Alaimo K, Oleksyk SC, Drzal NB, Golzynski DL, Lucarelli JF, Wen Y, Velie EM. Effects of changes in lunch-time competitive foods, nutrition practices, and nutrition policies on low-income middle-school children's diets. Child Obes. 2013 Dec;9(6):509-23. doi: 10.1089/chi.2013.0052. Epub 2013 Nov 11. PMID: 24215386.
- Paluch AE, Bajpai S, Bassett DR,et al.; Steps for Health Collaborative. Daily steps and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis of 15 international cohorts. Lancet Public Health. 2022 Mar;7(3):e219-e228. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(21)00302-9. PMID: 35247352; PMCID: PMC9289978.
- Umberson D, Montez JK. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51 Suppl(Suppl):S54-66. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383501. PMID: 20943583; PMCID: PMC3150158.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant