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Don't let it creep up

Typical early warning signs of stress include difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, headaches, and increased smoking or drinking. Stress can also manifest itself in stomach upsets, tearfulness and muscular aches and tension, writes Tom Lewis.

Teachers typically put their own interests last, but monitoring your own stress levels is a symptom of professionalism, not selfishness. To be there for others, you need to be there for yourself. You have a professional responsibility to look after your own well-being.

Trying to "pull yourself together" is not helpful. If you feel stressed, tell someone. If you can't talk to your manager or colleagues, talk over your feelings with someone at home. If that's not possible, try the GP or a telephone helpline (see below). Talking to others gives another perspective and can be a useful rehearsal for talking to senior colleagues. The Teacher Support Network now offers online counselling as well as a telephone service. TES chatrooms (www.tes.co.ukstaffroom) are a good place to share your feelings and confirm that you are not alone.

In the longer term, protect your leisure time and learn to say no. Some schools take better care of staff than others. If you feel unsupported in your school, you might find the cure for your stress in a new job.

Tom Lewis is head of personal development at the Teacher Support Network

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