It only takes a minute

In the first of a summer series, Jurgen Wolff has some soothing remedies for those facing the term's final hurdle.

There is a saying that work expands to fill the time available. For the end of term, a more accurate saying might be that work expands to fill more than the time available. As the tasks left to do multiply, the feeling of losing control intensifies. Fortunately, there are some simple techniques that can help the overburdened teacher cope.

One of the most powerful stress reducers is the one-minute time oasis. This entails taking one minute out when stress is building up, and doing three simple things: going somewhere quiet away from the stressful location (even if your only retreat is the toilet); sitting down with your eyes closed, and taking 10 slow, deep breaths; visualising a calm, peaceful place where you've enjoyed yourself, for example, the beach where you swam last summer. At the end of this minute, you'll notice that you are breathing more easily, your chattering mind has calmed, and quite likely your pulse and blood pressure have gone down a bit.

An ideal way to use this time oasis is between major activities. Rather than jumping from one to the next, take the time to relax for just one minute and you will find that you approach the next task with a greater sense of calmness and determination.

Another useful strategy is to write on small sticky-notes each of the tasks you need to accomplish in the frantic last few days of term (and how many of you will still be in school in the first week of the holidays?). You can put the notes on a bulletin board, a wall, or the pages of a notebook. When you have the complete set, move them around in order of priority. Then tackle each one in order.

As you complete them, move the sticky notes to a "tasks accomplished" section of your wall, board or notebook. This technique reduces stress in a number of ways. It allows you to see that however many tasks remain, it's not an infinite number, even if it seems that way. It gives you an easy way to prioritise what needs to be done, but with the flexibility to make changes if necessary. It provides a feeling of achievement as you move notes to the "accomplished" section - tangible evidence that you're making progress. If you keep the notes, they can also help you before the end of term. Review them periodically and see which ones you could start to do earlier, or get help with, or delegate or avoid next time, so you'll have fewer tasks to do in this busy period.

The third technique is even simpler: carry with you a visual symbol of the most enjoyable activity which you're looking forward to during your holiday time. If you're taking a trip to Paris, it might be a picture of the Eiffel Tower; if you're looking forward to sleeping late every morning, it might be a picture of a bed; if you're going to have a reunion with friends, it could be a snapshot of them. When the stress levels get high, take a moment to look at the picture, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that at the end of your hard work, a big reward is waiting for you.

Naturally, these techniques can't make the work disappear, but they can help you handle it in a more relaxed and enjoyable manner.

Next week: Making the transition.Jurgen Wolff is a hypnotherapist and writer. His most recent bookis 'Do Something Different', published by Virgin Business Guides. His free monthly Brainstorm creativity e-bulletin is available on request: email

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