Going back to school after the summer break can be just as stressful for teachers as it is for students. Sally Duffin, a registered nutritional therapist for Vitaminology, has put together her best back to school survival tips for teachers to help manage the stress and demands of the new school year.
Top nutrients for managing stress
Alongside practical lifestyle changes, it can be helpful to look at increasing your intake of nutrients that help the body cope with ongoing stress:
1. Vitamin C: Found in watercress, kiwi, berries, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, and citrus fruits, vitamin C is used by the adrenal glands to manufacture stress hormones. It also plays a key role in immunity, skin health and mental wellbeing.
2. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): This B-vitamin works alongside vitamin C for stress hormone production in the adrenal glands. It is found in a wide range of foods including sweet potato, legumes, lentils, egg yolks, red meat, nuts and salmon.
3. Magnesium: Known as the ‘anti-stress mineral’, magnesium is used for making energy, neurotransmitter production, aiding sleep, and relaxing smooth muscles. Refined and processed foods are depleted of magnesium. The best sources include dark green leafy vegetables, oats, beans, almonds, cashew nuts and Brazil nuts.
Exercise and movement
It is all too easy for personal exercise time to disappear when we are under stress. However, regular exercise is vital for helping us adapt and cope with stress and reduce the risk of long-term chronic health conditions like obesity, hypertension, and type-2 diabetes .
Exercise sessions need to be scheduled into your weekly diary just like any other important appointment. The UK Chief Medical Officer recommends adults enjoy 150 minutes moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise – or a mixture of both . This can be split into short bursts such as a 20-minute walk or 30 minutes cycling.
The most important thing is to choose activities that you like doing and protect these times carefully so you can build a regular exercise habit.
The school day starts early so there isn’t much time for preparing food before work. Doing batch preparations on an evening takes away a lot of the hassle of meal prep, and ensures you are properly fuelled the next day.
– Breakfasts: Use glass jars or tubs to make up batches of overnight oats or smoothie bowls for weekday breakfasts, see our recipe here. Hard boil five eggs and keep them in the fridge for breakfasts or snacks.
– Packed lunches: Use Thermos flasks for soups and casseroles, portion out leftovers from the night before into tubs, or make a large serving of mixed salad to take each day with different sources of protein (meat, eggs, tinned fish) and oatcakes or wholegrain crackers.
– Evening meals: Ordering healthy meal kits can save time and energy when you are tired after a long day at school. Also try batch cooking curries and pasta sauces on a weekend for use during the week.
Students have their own water bottles – teachers need them too! Excess caffeine from tea, coffee, and sports drinks can worsen symptoms of anxiety and stimulate the production of stress hormones. Drinking at least 1.5-2 litres plain water each day helps support energy levels, mood balance, and concentration. Add fruit slices for flavour, and swap regular caffeinated drinks for herbal and Redbush teas.
The start of a new term is an exciting time but one that can also be stressful and demanding. Take steps now to build positive habits around eating well, exercising regularly, and enjoying relaxation time to help strengthen your resilience to stress. Include nutrient-rich wholefoods to give your body the building blocks it needs to handle these demands and you can enjoy better energy, brain power, and immunity for the whole school year.