10 Ways to Stay Healthy as an Early Childhood Educator

It is critical, pandemic or not, for teachers to prioritize their health.

We are caregivers, often giving to and caring about others more than we do ourselves. So much so, that our health suffers. We don’t want that to happen to you.

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup?’ Well, teachers are among those who really need a full cup. So we have provided some small habits that you can easily implement to stay healthy and well this season.

1. Go Outside

Moving instruction outdoors can do wonders for both the mental and physical health of both teachers and students. Research has shown that nature helps with depression and anxiety. Fresh air also decreases the chance of spreading airborne illnesses. Spending as much of the school day as possible outdoors is a win-win for your health, both physical and mental. And let’s be honest, the children won’t mind it either.

2. Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day

Teachers and children alike can benefit from stress reduction activities. When I think of zen, I think of yoga, and the good news is, children LOVE it! Try incorporating a 10-minute yoga session before or after naptime.

Other ways to incorporate mindfulness include afternoon tea (with your favorite herbal teas), creating a zen garden, playing calming music, engaging in art with your students, and deep breathing. Making activities like these part of the daily rhythm, even if they are just for a short period of time, can have a big impact.

3. Eat Healthy Foods

The way we fuel our bodies is so important in fighting off illness. Prioritize a healthy breakfast (no, coffee isn’t a food group), and if possible, pack a healthy lunch to bring with you to school. Nourish your body with vitamin-rich foods so it has the strength to fight off germs when needed. 

4. Regular Doctor Visits

As we get caught up in the day-to-day routine of teaching, things like annual doctor visits can easily slip by the wayside. Make these appointments a priority. Put reminders in your calendar to schedule them. Give your employer plenty of time to get coverage in the classroom if needed so that you can go to these appointments. Preventive health can save you from big headaches (figuratively and literally) down the road.

5. Air-Purifying Plants

Scientists suggest that plants can work to detoxify and purify the air we breathe. Some of these plants include: 

  • English Ivys
  • Mother-In-Law’s Tongues or Snake Plants
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Spider plants

The more the merrier! You can easily involve the children in plant care, so they will do double duty by providing teachable moments while also cleaning the air in your classroom. 

6. Positive Work Environment

For many teachers, our classrooms are a second home and a place where we spend A LOT of time. In the same ways that we make our homes healthy and comfortable, classrooms should feel that way too. If the decor or layout of your classroom doesn’t make you happy, change it. If motivational sayings help you keep a positive mentality, keep your favorite one in a frame somewhere you can see it often. It’s important that you are comfortable in your surroundings.

7. Keep Good Company

Have you ever noticed how some people in your life lift you up and others drag you down? Keep those uplifting folks close and the rest at arm’s length. Positivity can have a profound effect on your health. Being picky about the company you keep may seem like it doesn’t correlate to your health, but negativity drags us down and depletes us of valuable energy.

8. Blocks of Time for Planning/Prepping

As a former preschool teacher and owner, I know more often than not, evenings and weekends are spent prepping or planning OR thinking about prepping/planning. Allow yourself blocks of time to do this, but try your best not to go beyond that. A teacher’s work is never done. Setting boundaries about how you spend your “free” time is crucial. Too much time spent on work outside of work hours can lead to burnout. Burnout can lead to a compromised immune system.

9. Stay Hydrated

Be sure you are drinking lots of water throughout your work day. According to healthline.com, staying hydrated helps maximize physical performance, significantly affects energy levels and brain function, helps to ward off headaches, helps to relieve constipation, and more. Treat yourself to a fancy water bottle and keep it with you as much as possible as you move around the classroom.

10. Rest

This might be the most important tip. If you want to stay healthy and mentally strong, you absolutely have to make rest a priority. The CDC recommends that adults 18+ get seven or more hours of sleep per night. I would argue that working with children requires that we add even more time to that–they are exhausting! If you take one thing from this article to implement, do this: Get AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep every night. Your health will thank you. 

We teach because it’s a calling. It’s who we are. We definitely don’t do it to get rich. To give a little context, teaching is considered by many as an underpaid profession, with historically high burnout rates. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education via New Middle Class Dad, about 500,000 (15%) of teachers in the U.S. leave the profession every year. Furthermore, 66% of teachers want to leave their job and 41.3% of new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. 

For these reasons and so many others, it is important that teachers make their health and well-being their top priority. By utilizing some of these strategies, you can keep your mental and physical health on the up and up. In turn, you will not only be able to give more to the families in your programs, spend your free time doing things you enjoy, and FEEL good–but you will also be modeling healthy habits to your students. 

Do you have other tips for staying healthy? Share them in the comments!

Amanda Dixon

Amanda is a homeschooling mama of three, freelance writer and college professor. She has a master's degree in early childhood education and a deep passion for the development that takes place in children from 0-6.

One comment

  • June McKelvey-Burbage says:

    All points were excellent! It is so sad so many new teachers choose to leave the field. I know of one case where a young man gave up teaching after only three years. Self-care is vital!!

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