Three quick wins to counter workload pressure

13th January 2016 at 06:00
In the first of their new series of wellbeing blogs for TES, Dr Nick Baylis and Dr Peter Orton reveal three strategies for staying on top of stress
  1. Teachers need to detox from all the insidious stimulants that over-rev our systems. When you consume rapid-fire screen entertainment, you present your system with much the same problem as the addictively instant reward derived from a shot of caffeine, alcohol or a sugary snack. Checking your inbox, googling trivia or watching a YouTube clip – you are withdrawing into a home-brew of escapist fantasies. Such everyday, overwrought distractions not only exhaust us by frazzling our system with unhelpful fizz but also desensitise us to the subtler shades and tempo of our natural surroundings: our real life feels grey by comparison to all those flashy neon "hits".

    Remedy this by dramatically reducing your intake of such toxic glitter. As an instant rebuff to any cravings, imagine sharing your favourite sport, hike or song with some good folks –  a realistic and reassuring vision of "actively belonging" that will coax you to create exactly that. Once you’re wise to your accidental diet of "hollow highs", you will revitalise within days, feeling buoyant and back in command.
  2. Decompress from tension by creatively channelling its energy into a range of activities that are sweat-breakingly physical and emotionally expressive – rather than holding it in and consuming "anaesthetics". You can healthily transform your mind and emotions by naturally changing how your body moves and feels; and this can be achieved by doing something personally satisfying but convenient at least 20 minutes per day, such as boxercise, dancing, singing, yoga, interval-running, or cycling, This frequent catharsis should help prevent an accumulation of the excessive stress that otherwise causes physical and emotional ills, and sluggish or runaway thinking.
  3. Deeply relax by infusing every task with the magic of "slow motion". The skill of relaxation makes every activity run better, bar none, and doing things slowly – at one-quarter speed or less – helps to achieve this. Take a long, deep breath by easing your abdomen outwards to inhale, and then exhaling as slowly as you can, trickling the air out. Repeat often. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, extend the slow-mo treatment to a spoken phrase, to a few mouthfuls at meal times, and half-a-dozen strides here and there. Doing or vividly imagining any action in a t'ai chi and molasses-smooth way, not only improves its performance but also helps us to feel calm and confident at the helm.   

Dr Nick Baylis is a chartered psychologist and a senior associate of the Royal Society of Medicine. Dr Peter Orton is the UK’s leading medical examiner for international airline pilots, advising them on the physical methods for dealing with their high-stress lives. You can contact both at  

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