When there’s a break in the school day — and she isn’t on yard duty — Arzana Irani, OCT, needs that time to run to the restroom, get a snack and just take a breather. But instead, the Grade 5 teacher at William Armstrong PS in Markham, often ends up tackling her to-do list.

“I use the time to plan for the next period, or I have kids who stay in for extra help. If I’m really prepared, I use every spare minute to mark,” Irani says. “There have been mornings that are so busy that I don’t get to use the washroom until lunchtime.”

Like Irani, Brianne Buckman, OCT, doesn’t have downtime when students are on break. “Right now all of my prep time and recesses are used to choreograph the school play,” says the Grade 2 teacher at Netivot HaTorah Day School in Thornhill, “but it would also be nice to check my phone and relax, or chat with other teachers about non-teaching-related things. Having time to myself makes me appreciate my recess more, and helps me recharge so I can continue to be at my best in the classroom.”

If break time leaves you feeling less than refreshed, here are some pointers on how to re-energize.

Just breathe

For a great stress-reliever after a trying class, sit in your chair, place your hands on your abdomen (fingers touching) and take a deep breath in. Let your stomach expand until your fingers are no longer touching, then exhale until your fingers touch, and repeat.

Inhaling and exhaling play a significant role in managing stress, as well as controlling blood pressure, insomnia and even weight loss. Sandra Mosaad, a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor in Richmond Hill, says spending just a few minutes taking deep breaths from the diaphragm can make you feel more relaxed than 15 minutes of chatting or surfing your iPhone during recess.

Roll with it

If your shoulders and neck are tense, try these simple stretches: Sitting at your desk, gently drop your head and roll it from side to side. Then straighten your left arm and pull it in close across your chest using your right forearm. Switch and pull in your right arm with your left forearm. “This loosens you up and relieves pressure and tension,” says Mosaad.

Get moving

When students are running around during break time, try to spend a few minutes doing something physical too. “Exercising releases feel-good endorphins,” Mosaad says. Plus, it boosts your energy and helps keep you fit.

If you’re on yard duty, for example, walk laps around the schoolyard for all-round supervision. Gradually build to a fast-paced walk to get your heart rate up. “This can help you relieve any built-up stress,” Mosaad says. Stuck indoors? Speed-walk from one end of the building to the other and back. Throughout the day, focus on contracting your core (abdominal) muscles by “sucking in” your stomach. “Taking 15 minutes to re-energize by trying these exercises can help you get through the day,” she says. “Plus, short spurts can make a big difference to your overall fitness health.”

Kathryn Ellis, OCT, a teacher at Alexander Mackenzie HS in Richmond Hill, takes advantage of any “short spurts” she can get — usually during her prep period — to re-energize by leaving her workroom. “Our school is sprawling and I like to speak to people in person, so I do get a bit of exercise then. Even hall duty can chalk up a lot of steps in your day,” she says. And after a busy day (or if there’s a few minutes to spare at lunch), Ellis takes advantage of the school’s weight room. “There are spinner bikes and I try to ride for 10 minutes during prep, at lunch or after school when I can.”

Eat smart

“I’m on yard duty on Fridays during lunch and I’m always starving because I usually haven’t had time to grab a bite since breakfast,” Buckman says. But when it comes to snacking, says Claire Doble, a registered dietitian in Stouffville, some foods are better than others at keeping you feeling good for the day.

“The best snacks that give teachers the added energy they need to get through a long day should be high in fibre, carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates are important for energy, and the fibre and protein help make the energy last,” Doble says. Some good examples:

Feeling sluggish or irritable? Don’t give into that junk-food craving. “Potato chips and chocolate bars won’t give you the energy you need to get through the day,” Doble says. Snacks lower in fibre, like cookies, candy and granola bars, often give you a quick jolt of energy, but it won’t last. And as your blood sugar plummets, you may even feel worse than before. Your best bet is to stay hydrated throughout the day (keep water at your desk), load up on veggies and fruit, and save the sweet snack for your after-dinner treat.

Ellis relies on the three different kinds of snacks she usually craves while at school — something that satisfies her hunger, something sweet and something that has a salty crunch. “Almonds, dates and Triscuits are usually in my workroom space because they keep well,” she says. “The vending machines and cafeteria don’t stock junk food anymore, so that helps too.”