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It's all in the mind

Rosalind Sharpe on how the stresses of the past can be faced head-on

It's tempting to think that when the summer holidays arrive at last you will magically be able to put all the stresses of the past year out of your mind, find the energy to rouse yourself and start having a good time.

Tempting - but unrealistic. And, perhaps, undesirable. Your holiday may be more beneficial if, instead of trying to repress all thoughts of work (then feeling guilty when you fail), you allow yourself to reflect and reassess in ways that are constructive.

Grace Coia, a psychotherapist who spent 37 years as a teacher, knows as well as anybody that teachers are notorious for carrying their classrooms around on their backs. If they are not actually making forays into school during the holidays, they are fretting at home. But six weeks divided between brooding about the past year and worrying about the next are not a recipe for recuperation.

Grace's advice is to practise some "constructive relaxation". She suggests taking an A4 piece of paper and drawing a line from top to bottom. On one side, list the things that worry or dissatisfy you about work. On the other, write the steps you would like to see yourself take to deal with them. Not theoretical solutions, such as the abolition of SATs, but changes you can make yourself. When the list is finished, old the paper in half so you can't see the problems. Now you are armed with a plan of action for the new term. Your brooding has produced not more negativism, but something you can feel pleased with.

Grace Coia is also a hypnotherapist. She uses "the power of words - no swinging gold watches" to produce what she calls an "altered state of mind" or state of relaxation. During sessions with clients, she first discusses strategies that might be helpful for a particular problem, then, while the client is relaxed, she feeds back words that support and reinforce those strategies. But this "altered state" need not be induced by hypnotism. Grace also teaches her clients to seek it for themselves.

It can arise whenever you are free from distractions and able to follow your thoughts wherever they take you. You might be engrossed in something or doing nothing, but whether you are redecorating the back bedroom or floating in the Mediterranean, the important thing is to allow yourself to be this other, "altered" person. When you contemplate your everyday life from this perspective, you may see things in a useful new light. "It's about learning to be the kind of person you would be if you weren't bogged down by daily pressures," Grace says.

The National Register of Hypno-Psychotherapists Tel: 01282 699 378.Grace Coia is based in Glasgow

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