Ways to take it easy

17th November 2000 at 00:00
It's not only pupils who need calming words and happy thoughts.

former head at West Kidlington primary, offers tips on how to beat those work-day blues

Teachers are expected to be positive role models for pupils. We can only do this if we feel confident and secure. Caring for ourselves takes many forms, which include nurturing our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is not selfish to give ourselves time and space, as we will then be able to give more to others and feel more able to cope. The following tips may help preserve your inner calm.

Mind control Set aside some time each day for "mental traffic control". It doesn't take long - a visit to the bathroom can provide the ideal opportunity. During a day in the classroom our brains are bombarded with messages as we cope with the demands of children and the curriculum.

To reduce this stress-inducing overload we must take time to sort out important, useful thoughts, and separate them from unnecessary, often negative ones.

Sit still and go inside yourself to become the observer of your own thoughts. Don't judge them, just watch them. As you do so, they will begin to slow down. Try to let go of unnecessary or negative thoughts that crowd your mind. Practice will make you skilled in this process, resulting in a more peaceful, contented internal world, enabling you to become less affected by the demands of the external world.

Stop beating yourself up Most teachers are self-critical. This leads to a negative voice constantly telling you how bady things are going. To address this, make a daily list of things that have gone well, instead of remembering the one or two things in your day that went badly.

We constantly replay negative experiences in our minds. To stop these hurtful thoughts, acknowledge them as they arise. Don't suppress them - but tell yourself that you don't want to give them any attention. Think of happy, positive thoughts and, with practice, the old demons will subside.

Take time to daydream As teachers we often stop pupils from daydreaming, but it is important for all of us to do it. At the end of the day - just before going to sleep - enjoy a few moments creating some happy, positive thoughts and images. This habit helps you sleep peacefully and wake up feeling more energetic. It also stops you worrying about the events of the day before you fall asleep.

Help each other School staff need a policy of mutual care. A strong feeling of community support will help teachers to cope better with the day's stresses. One way to achieve this is to make the staffroom a comfortable place where staff can feel relaxed. If it is tatty, cluttered with school notices, transform it with comfortable chairs and make it aesthetically pleasing with pictures and plants.

Providing a masseurmasseuse or other therapist will encourage staff to relax after school. This would show staff that the school cares for them and wants them to have opportunities to remain both mentally and physically healthy.

Neil Hawkes is an adviser in Oxfordshire?

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