I’m a special education teacher. While “teacher” may conjure images of lesson plans, hoarded office supplies, and a person in authority, my classroom is really just organized chaos. Regardless of how well-planned I am for the day, there are too many variables over which I have no control.
Even though I really enjoy teaching, there are ways in which I must compensate for the chaos. One way is to incorporate a few constants with the variables that promote both physical and mental health. The following are seven components that make up my weekday routine.
1. Early Morning: Water & Peppermint
After I get out of bed and take care of the initial necessities in the bathroom, I drink 36 ounces of water with a drop of peppermint essential oil. The volume has no real reason other than 36 ounces just happens to be the amount I can fit into a large mason jar. I drink it first thing in the morning to avoid dehydration and headaches; improve mood, focus, and alertness; stimulate and support digestion; and nurture overall organ health. I add peppermint essential oil to support healthy digestion and wake me up a little faster.
2. Early morning: Sun Salutations
Before I get dressed, I complete sun salutations for 5-10 minutes. I’ve varied this routine before, but my morning always includes movement of some kind that engages my entire body. Sun salutations happen to be my current favorite. The cyclical flow of these movements leaves me feeling calm and centered while continuing to wake me up to start the day.
3. Mid-morning: Green drink
I commute 27 miles to work, one way… On my drive, I drink a green smoothie for breakfast. The ingredients vary, but the base is always kale and/or spinach. This is my attempt to overload my body with nutrients and maintain the self-imposed requirement to consume something naturally dark green every day. Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner of Simple Green Smoothies have great resources and recipes if you’re new to or apprehensive of green drinks.
4. Late morning: Coffee
You were probably wondering where this one was coming in… Yes, I am a coffee drinker. Chugger. Sipper. Sniffer. Lover. When I get to work, I make a small pot of coffee in my classroom. I drink 2-3 cups before lunch in addition to draining my 40-ounce Klean Kanteen water bottle. Emerging research suggests that coffee has numerous health benefits, such as the prevention of Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer. I drink organic, shade grown fair trade coffee. Like hot tea, it forces me to slow down in an otherwise rapidly moving workday.
5. Early afternoon: Mindful lunch
During lunch, I close my laptop lid, leave my phone in my desk drawer, and sit in a bungee chair to eat my lunch. Yes, a bungee chair. I have a few of these goofy, trampoline-like chairs in my classroom for my students. During lunch, I sit in one like it’s an upright hammock. Not only is it ridiculously comfortable, it helps break up the monotony of my desk chair and makes me feel a little silly—something I think many of us miss out on. Because I choose to disconnect during lunch, I can savor my food. I can let my thoughts wander or spend time in meditation. I call this my mindful lunch because I give my food, body, and mind my full attention in the present moment.
6. Late afternoon: Exercise
After work, I figure out a way to get my heart rate up. Currently, this involves indoor rock climbing, at-home calisthenics, riding my bike, or running. Since we’re starting to see the sun for a little longer each day, I’ll have more opportunities to hike and trail run. During the day, I usually contemplate what I’ll be doing after work. This depends on what I did the day before, the weather, and if my friends will be joining me. The daylong contemplation gives me something to look forward to and get excited about. I used to keep a strict workout schedule, but I find it much more freeing and enjoyable to figure out my schedule on a day-by-day basis. And if, for some reason, I don’t exercise, it’s not a significant disruption since I was just playing it by ear.
7. Evening: Tea & Meditation
Before bed, I make time for hot tea and meditation. I rotate a variety of caffeine-free blends from Traditional Medicinals, Organic India, as well as loose-leaf I buy from bulk bins. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day or cannot seem to wind down, I default to blends with lavender, chamomile, or valerian (or all three). I practice sitting meditation on the floor in my bedroom. I typically sit in half lotus and meditate for 5-15 minutes while counting my breaths or the wooden beads on a bracelet. I rotate various recordings of Tibetan bowls, Spanish guitars, light piano work… I use guided meditations when I feel particularly scattered.
I developed this ritual after my first year of teaching. My first year, I was working 12 or more hours a day. My work life overshadowed my home life and trickled its way into my dreams. I was an anxious, overworked mess. This evening ritual helps further remove my mind from my day job so I can ease into a deeper, more rejuvenating sleep.
I don’t want to mislead you with this list. Every day is not perfect. Some days I roll out of bed without stretching, or I’ll skip the green drink and possibly breakfast altogether. Other days, I’ll work straight through lunch to answer e-mails, or I’ll work late instead of exercise. I do know, however, that when I maintain my weekday routine, I just feel better. And who doesn’t want that?
Do you have any daily routines or rituals? How do you feel when your routine is disrupted?
(After drafting this post a week ago, I’ve noticed a positive and significant shift in my daily routine’s consistency and my overall mood. It’s amazing how powerful writing can be.)