How to sustain energy & voice whilst teaching on line
Updated: Feb 6
Delivering online is exhausting. Not only are you reinventing your meticulously tried and tested in-real-life resources but online delivery takes twice as much energy. The following tips focus on energy, stamina and voice preservation in an attempt to keep you feeling fearless during Lock Down (and beyond). I hope it helps <3
Recommended consumption: 6 x 1/2 pints of water a day
Teaching is a complex cognitive task which begins to decline as you get dehydrated. A symptom of dehydration is feeling tired. Instead of reaching for that tea or coffee to ‘get you through’ remember the present scientific thinking:
“compounds with diuretic properties like caffeine may affect your hydration status”
and drink half a pint of water instead. Stay awake, stay focused, be brilliant.
The caffeine cycle
Vocal folds (aka cords/chords) are half the size of a 5p piece and vibrate between 110 and 220 times per second. The folds are protected by a layer of lubricant which is kept smooth by drinking water. When you are dehydrated the mucus becomes thick, gunky and annoying and you attempt to cough it away. If you clapped your hands 110 times a second they’d get sore, puffy and blistery until you couldn't use them. This is what’s happening to your vocal folds when you clear and cough. In response your body produces more gunky slime and you cough more frequently to clear it. You're now in the caffeine cycle. Soon you develop a sore throat or (as I commonly hear in the staff room) ‘cough cough, I’ve had this cold and sore throat that I just can’t seem get rid of cough cough I’ve had it for months, cough, cough, hoick, cough’ (teacher reaches for more coffee). Eventually you lose vocal stamina or your voice. The solution is to DRINK HALF A PINT OF WATER, six times between 6am and 22:00pm. That’s 1/2 pint every 2.5 hours. Sorry for yelling, I just think you have enough to worry about with out losing your voice as well.
When I was full time teaching and running a Music department I developed a Yorkie a day habit. I understand now that it hit my brain's reward circuit
“in much the same way as cocaine and gambling do”
and gave me a much needed anti stress boost. It didn’t make me a more focused teacher as it affected my “orexin cells’ which Dr Denis Burdokov (Cambridge Neuroscience, University of Cambridge) cites is “the reason for after-meal sleepiness”. Dr Burdokov’s study suggests that
‘protein and not sugar activates the cells responsible for keeping us awake’.
In short, mainlining on chocolate, biscuits, cakes, crisps, energy drinks, pasta, pastry and white bread reduce our brains ability to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, decision make and pay attention. Equally, forgetting or being too busy to eat, lowers our sugar levels causing tiredness, hunger, irritability, tearfulness, anxiety or moodiness (affectionately called hangry in my household). Our relationship with food is unique to all of us, it affects our performance levels and is linked with our mental health and how we deal with stress. Focusing on food for optimum cognitive brain function is more empowering than food to lose weight. My personal journey is that by eating like an elite athlete I succeed like one too. And if I follow Usain Bots example:
'Bolt says his victory meal tends to be the same after every race: Fast Food'
then a little bit of something bad can do my stressed brain good. Which in practice equates to more plant based protein snacks, less refined sugar and maybe one Yorkie a week instead of seven.
Before Covid we all had a decompression routine after work. The walk, drive, bus or cycle home, kid collection, cafe, pub, sporting activity or hobby. Now, remote learning and planning has seamlessly merged into your home and the valuable 10+ minutes decompression has evaporated. In order to teach, your body will have switched onto Network BOOST (more info here Network Boost) it will have released Cortisol (stress hormone) and Adrenalin (confidence hormone), elevated your heart rate, suppressed your hunger and your immune system. Without decompression you can’t switch back to Network Calm, the hormones are still racing through your body and you start to get ill. In order to maintain your mental and physical health get creative with a new decompression routine. Here are some ideas:
Harvard neuroscientist Sarah Lazar
In the group that learned meditation, the amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.The change in the amygdala was also correlated to a reduction in stress levels.
Mindfulness suggestions so far: Adult colouring
Suduko, Crosswords, Headspace app, read a book for fun (not for resources).
To quote Amy Cuddy Ph.D
“I am a scientist, and so now I have to eat my resistance, because the evidence that yoga yields positive psychological and physiological results is nearly impossible to refute”
Mindfulness and Yoga aren't a tree hugging placebo, sorry, and if you need celebrity endorsement Yoga is practiced by Mick Jagger, Frankie Boyle, Beyonce, Sting, Cristiano Ronaldo, Oprah Winfrey, Joe Rogan and Parineeti Chopra. There are as many varieties of Yoga and Mediation as there are types of music. A bit of Google searching and you can find a style that suits you, your physical ability and your available room space. Internet searches can be overwhelming so ask your mates and colleagues for recommendations, the phone call has the added bonus of a much needed Oxytocin hit.
“There is a 20% to 33% lower risk of developing depression, for adults participating in daily physical activity”
Exercise the miracle cure and the role of the Doctor in promoting it, Academy of Medical Royal College.
If you don’t have children at home (I can’t open a door without my LOs bat like senses picking up on it) create a new going home routine by adding a walk, run or cycle to the end of you day. If you can’t leave your home or are differently abled explore the many “10 minute afterwork fitness” movs on youtube.
Play your favourite track and dance/wiggle/wave, like nobody is watching. For an added Happy hit (Dopamine) sing along too, loudly
Reach out to your friends, family and colleagues for new ideas. Now more than ever we need to feel connected.
I hope this helps? Take care, you are doing extraordinary work under extraordinary circumstances.
All the best