Being an early childhood educator is challenging and physical work. Our work also carries an emotional labor, guiding children and supporting families. The work embodies a noble task and contributes to the betterment of society, but at what cost? What is the cost of giving our emotional and physical best each day so children and families may thrive? Sometimes, the cost is our health.
Early childhood educators are often sick, catching the colds and infections the children and adults bring to our work each day. Life would be wonderful if the children and adults with illness remained at home until well, but the reality of our working environment is different.
How can early childhood educators remain healthy, improve their health and just feel better in a physically demanding career? The key to experiencing better health and feeling better in our careers constitutes following a few simple basic health guidelines. Guidelines educators and many adults acknowledge but set aside because of time and other pressures of life. If educators utilized some of our precious free time for self-care the incidence of illness and time missed from our classrooms would decrease. The following are some suggestions for methods to improve our overall health and well being.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults perform 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week and each exercise session last a minimum of 10 minutes. Activity examples include, cycling, gardening, tennis, walking, running, water aerobics and walking the dog. Other more vigorous exercise examples include, spin class, basketball, soccer, martial arts, swimming and cross fit. Another recommendation suggests adult's strength train at least two times per week performing exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, weight training or other forms of resistance exercise.
“Water is the driving force of all nature” Leonardo da Vinci. Water or liquid is an important ingredient in assembling our health puzzle. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adult men consume 3 liters of liquid per day and females 2.2 liters per day. The term liquid refers to any type of liquid, but many adults drink a large portion of our liquid in the form of caffeinated drinks that may be affecting our energy levels. Consuming most of our liquid intake in the form of water represents the best practice as water flushes out toxins from body and carries nutrients to our cells.
MyPlate.org features food recommendations for all Americans by the United States Department of Agriculture. The website educates about making healthy food choices and how to balance out meals. Food represents a controversial subject and many adults follow a wide variety of nutrition guidelines. As educators, busy in our professional and personal lives, remember to slow down and take time to eat, consume a wide variety of whole foods, and stay away from processed food as much as possible for better health.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that all adults sleep for between 7 to 9 hours per night. The latest studies states 68% of Americans get 7 hours of sleep per night and a few articles suggest that educators obtain much less. Sleep expert Shawn Stevenson author of the book "Sleep Smarter" shares 21 recommendations on his website for better sleep. A few of the highlights include, turning off all electronics one hour before bedtime as the blue light from tablets and other electronics promotes hormones that affect sleep. Cut out all caffeine before 4pm so the nervous system can return to normal levels. Go to bed early as the prime time for sleep exists between 10pm and 2am. Finally, become an early riser as this mimics our natural pattern of cortisol and melatonin release in the body.
These ideas represent some suggestions for a healthier start to the season. Whatever your personal preferences and practices please make time for the self-care all educators deserve. Start feeling better; get sick less often and live ready for many exciting co-learning activities with children in the days ahead.
What personal change will make self-care a priority in your practice?