Whether you are a kid returning to the classroom, a college student facing the challenges of lectures and lots of independent living, or a teacher who helps introduce knowledge to hungry minds, you can benefit from tips that can help you stay healthy, energized, and enthused. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and pressures of school and college environments, so we would love to help you take the best care of yourself and to do it as stress-free as possible.
Are you ready to rock your back-to-school experience?
Rock your nutrition
We all know that it’s important to eat healthy foods and enjoy a variety and balance of foods and nutrients, but it’s another thing to follow through. Does this sound familiar?
- “I don’t have time for breakfast.”
- “I don’t know what to take/pack for quick, easy, and healthy lunches.”
- “What can I throw in my backpack [car, purse] to snack on between classes?”
If so, read on.
Breakfast: Basically, don’t leave the house in the morning without enjoying a nutritious breakfast. Ideally, it should contain protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Nut butter on whole wheat toast with sliced banana or other fruit or yummy oatmeal or chia seed cereal made the night before, so it’s ready in the morning (recipe) are just a few suggestions.
Another nutritious breakfast suggestion is a smoothie that combines all three macronutrients in one delicious beverage. Most smoothies can be prepared in minutes, and you can easily take one with you to school in an eco-friendly container (stainless steel or glass), so you can sip it on the way.
Scores of smoothie recipes are available that contain ingredients that will help you get through the morning, including green or protein powders, along with your choice of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, plant-based beverages, and/or Greek yogurt. Select ingredients that will provide you with the big three: protein, healthy fats, and carbs.
[Editor's Note: We love the unflavored fermented protein powder from Genuine Health because it is easy to digest and has 20 grams of protein per scoop. It also comes in vanilla and chocolate. We also love their greens powder in our smoothies.]
Lunch and snacks: One of the best ways to ensure your lunch and snack choices stay fresh and safe is to pack them in an insulated lunch bag or travel container that allows you to include an ice pack. Fresh fruit and cut-up veggies are always good choices for students and teachers, as are seeds and nuts added to salads, hummus, whole wheat tortillas wrapped around avocado, tomato, and chicken, whole grain pitas stuffed with tuna and sprouts, and vegetable soup, along with many other healthy lunch ideas.
If you are looking for instant, no-fuss lunch and snack ideas, you can always pack small cans of tuna or chicken, hummus, salsa, instant oatmeal, canned chickpeas or black beans, dried fruit, and trail mix. Be sure to bring along the proper utensils!
Do you love peanut (and other nut) butter and jelly? Natural nut butter with honey and banana slices on whole grain bread is still a great sandwich, but be sure to try these delicious healthy alternatives.
Rock your sleep – sleep routines
To help ensure you are at your best every day, getting adequate, restful sleep is critical. Students can find it difficult to get good sleep when there are homework assignments and studying to be done, extracurricular sports and other school activities keeping them busy, and part-time jobs to help cover costs. Teachers are no stranger to sleeping problems, given the before and after school staff and parent/teacher meetings to attend, tests and homework to grade, and the pressures to stay current in their field.
That’s why it’s important to establish sleep routines that can welcome and help you maintain healthy sleep.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every night and morning. Following a pattern can help you establish a rhythm that becomes familiar and comfortable.
- Block out distractions. Yes, it may be tough, but stay away from your phone, laptop, and other electronic devices and blue light at least one hour before retiring. It is best to sleep in darkness, but if you cannot eliminate all light, wear a sleep mask. Noise distractions can be reduced or eliminated by using ear plugs or playing a white noise device next to your bed.
- Relax. Practice relaxation techniques before retiring. You may read, listen to calming music, enjoy a cup of tea (chamomile, kava, valerian root), meditate, take a warm bath or shower, or write in your journal. [Editor's Note: We love tea from Bigelow Tea. They have a variety of chamomile teas to choose from.]
- Be comfortable. If your bedding and bedclothes are not comfortable, you will find it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, and exercise several hours before retiring. For people who are sensitive to caffeine’s effects, it should be avoided after noon.
Rock your immune function
Keeping your immune system functioning at its best doesn’t have to be challenging. Fortunately, there are many helpful tools available. In addition to following a nutritious diet and getting adequate sleep, be sure to consider adding some of these immune system boosters to your routine:
- Drink your nutrients. What if you could stay well hydrated and get dozens of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants simultaneously with little to no effort? Several such products are on the market in powder form: simply add the powder to water and enjoy! One of those all-natural immune-boosting products is EcoDrink.
- Go pro. Beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) can help keep your immune and digestive systems operating at their best. Use of a probiotic supplement daily that contains about five or more strains may provide the protection you need. [Editor's Note: Kyo-Dophilus has a variety of shelf-stable probiotics to choose from. To learn more about all the great things probiotics can do for your health, visit probiotics.com.]
- Hello, aloe. Aloe vera is more than a natural remedy for burns and minor skin irritation. When you drink aloe vera juice from Lily of the Desert, you treat your immune system to a natural enemy of some bacteria, viruses, and free radicals, as well as a friend to white blood cells.
- Plant sterols and sterolins. Probiotics aren’t the only things that can help balance and restore immune function. A supplement that contains plant sterols and sterolins, such as Moducare from Wakunaga of America, can offer a helping hand.
- Clean and sanitize. It’s the little things you can do that can help the most. Keep a container of hand sanitizer always available in your backpack, purse, glove compartment, and desk. A hand sanitizer that contains aloe vera and vitamin E can help keep your hands soft as well as clean. We also like to carry flushable wipes like those from Natracare to wipe our hands if we forget the sanitizer and there isn't a sink handy. They are made from one hundred percent paper, 100% chlorine free, and free of parabens, alcohol, and other damaging ingredients; they're easy to carry in your purse. Good for you and the environment because you can flush them or put them in a recycling bin.
Rock stress reduction
According to the American Psychological Association, about 30 percent of teens report feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or sad because of chronic stress. Stress among teachers is much greater. A national survey of public school teachers found that about 75 percent reported frequent job-related stress, and 27 percent had symptoms of depression, compared with 10 percent among adults in the general population.
Students and teachers experience various stressful situations that can be alleviated by adopting some simple lifestyle changes or acts of kindness. For example:
- Teachers often have to provide many school supplies for their students, which can be a stressful financial strain. If you would like to help a teacher with this task, you might donate some school items or offer a gift card from Amazon or a big box store so they can purchase what they need.
- Do you enjoy a relaxing cup of tea but can’t always get your hands on one? Keep an eco-friendly tea traveling cup, water bottle, or thermos and some Bigelow Tea bags with you so you can partake of a calming beverage at will.
- Even a few minutes of quiet time and meditation can relieve some of the stress you experience during the day. Meditation is also a great way to start and end your day. Even ten minutes at a time can make a big difference in your mood and perspective if you make it a routine practice.
- Visualization has been shown to be helpful in relieving stress. If you are new to visualization, you can find guided visualization videos on the internet that can get you started.
- Meeting and talking with others who are experiencing similar feelings, whether it’s an informal meeting with a friend or two, a group therapy session, a school or college counselor, or a psychologist, can help alleviate stress and help you find healthy, constructive ways to deal with it.
- Hypnotherapy, including self-hypnosis, can help reduce stress. In a study of stressed college students, the authors found that hypnosis significantly increased mindfulness and decreased stress.
Returning to the classroom as a student/college student or teacher involves more than showing up: you need to take steps to ensure your nutrition, sleep, immune system, and stress are handled in the most healthy way possible. Be the best you can be this academic year and beyond by adopting some simple lifestyle changes.