15th August 2003 at 01:00
Roxanne Clark can help you stay relaxed long into the new term

Recognising you are stressed is a strength, not the weakness it is often considered. The enduring belief that stress is an acceptable part of achievement, and that only wimps admit to it, has contributed to the 13.4 million working days the Health and Safety Executive estimates are lost each year due to stress and related conditions.

Acknowledging stress is the first step towards managing it. And the first few weeks of the new term will provide you with many chances to do so.

As you prepare for the term ahead, take time to note down what is most likely to cause you stress during those hectic first weeks. Starting at a new school or college, returning after a long break from teaching, dealing with new students, staff and parents, as well as the workload, are all likely to be stressful.

Prioritise what is important in your schedule, including time for yourself, and accept that there are times when you will not be in complete control.

Try to go with the flow when it all seems too much.

Use the following exercise to help you gain perspective and calm:

* Close your eyes.

* Ask, how am I sittingstanding?

* What is my posture like?

* How am I breathing? Do I need to breathe more fully?

* Take a deep breath and let go as if sighing heavily.

* Ask, what is going on around me?

* Is there any distractingannoying noise?

* How am I reacting to this? Can I do anything about it?

* Breathe.

* Ask, how am I reacting to my environment? To my workload?

* Am I tensefeeling stressedanxious?

* Am I feeling pressured?

* Where am I tensestressed?

* Do I need to movestretch?

* Am I tired? Are my thoughts anxiouscalm? l Breathe.

* Do I need to step back and refocus?

* Am I taking it all too seriously?

* Take another deep breath - pause - let go as if sighing heavily. Repeat three times.

* Open your eyes.

This will take about three minutes when you are comfortable practising it.

The words are a guideline, you may want to use your own.

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

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