8th August 2003 at 01:00
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A breath of fresh air, a walk outdoors - make the most of classroom breaks, says Roxanne Clark

Smokers seem to be the only people who take legitimate breaks from work these days. Despite the negative aspects of smoking, they gain the benefits of time out from work, standing in the fresh air, chatting with colleagues and regaining perspective on work. If only everyone was encouraged to take a five or 10-minute break every few hours, work would be less stressful.

Without regular breaks, the pressure of work can make you feel like a car with its engine constantly revving - and that eventually leads to the car breaking down.

Taking breaks in teaching can seem impossible as the demands are so great, and you have people depending on you most of the time. But even taking mini-breaks can help you detach, giving you a chance to assess how you feel and regain perspective.

Even pausing and checking how you are breathing, and practising the breathing exercise discussed in this column in previous weeks is an effective break. It helps you gain control of your stress.

There are other opportunities to unwind, such as tea or coffee breaks.

Rather than just sitting and drinking, move around and stretch. Try to go outside and breathe in the fresher air deeply. Take a few minutes to unfocus your eyes, gazing at the sky and letting your mind wander, letting go of work concerns for a few minutes. You will be refreshed and relieved of physical and mental pressure.

A long break at lunch - resist working through it - is a good opportunity to get out of work mode. Try to leave your school or college environment at least one lunchtime a week and take a brisk walk around the vicinity, talk about non-work matters, stretch, breathe, and acknowledge you have a life outside work so that when you return you feel refreshed and empowered.

If you feel guilty about taking a break, remember that by looking after yourself you can more effectively look after the needs of others, meet the demands of your job, and provide a healthy role model.

Roxanne Clark teaches yoga with Pilates and holistic stress management in business, adult education and schools. Contact:

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