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21st April 2000 at 01:00
Lindy Sharpe on coping with SAT-related stress

It's SAT time of year again. If you have Year 2 or Year 6 children in your class, then a month of additional preparation and paperwork is looming, during which you will have to try to appear calm in case the children pick up on your anxiety. If you are unlucky, you will have neurotic parents to deal with as well.

If you're a head, you'll have to share all this pressure and give other class teachers extra duties to help out. It's May, after all. Stress levels in primary schools across the land will soon rocket, and teachers will be asking each other what qualifications you need to become a traffic warden.

Stress expresses itself in different ways for different people, which is why it is so hard to pin down. It can cause irritability, loss of humour, forgetfulness, insomnia, indigestion, or trigger eczema or asthma.

It can also produce a debilitating feeling of hopelessness or sudden attacks of panic.In the long term, it can contribute to depression. Some of these conditions can be alleviated in various ways, and it's worth experimenting with alternative forms of healing, such as colour therapy, and with tried and tested forms of exercis, such as yoga.

There are people who swear by all of these and most of them work by relaxing the body and distracting the mind from its obsessive negative thoughts. Deciding to have a bubble bath instead of doing the ironing can work in the same way.

However, if your anxiety is severe don't try to hide it. Teachers commonly feel they need to be seen as strong figures, and this in itself contributes to their anxiety. If you think stress is affecting your performance or your family life, go to your doctor who can refer you to a therapist or, if necessary, prescribe drugs to help you through a bad patch.

Up to a point, the way we handle stress depends on our self-confidence and the way we adapt to new situations. The old adage "keeping things in proportion" means retaining the ability to recognise that having a spot of difficulty with the Y6 boys, or experiencing occasional days when you feel you have lost control doesn't mean that you're a rotten teacher, much less a useless person.

Any strategy that can help you keep this detachment, even if it's a weekly session of beating a cushion, is safer than trying to keep all the stress inside and pretending there's nothing wrong.

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