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Three steps to boost your wellbeing over the Christmas holiday

In her last wellbeing column, Maria O'Neill offers some tips to help teachers benefit from positive thinking during the holiday season

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In her last wellbeing column, Maria O'Neill offers some tips to help teachers benefit from positive thinking during the holiday season

Despite overwhelming workload and the many responsibilities that come with our profession, some staff would find comfort in our prescribed time-tabled routines. Although holidays provide us with the much-needed time for sleep and rest (opportunities sometimes missed due to an ever-growing holiday to-do list); it also allows for more time to overthink, catastrophise and use our emotional reasoning to jump to conclusions.

The best way to prepare for the holiday season is ‘‘to structure’’ the unstructured time; not necessarily to make many unrealistic plans or commit to something just to fill up the time. I suggest investing time in your personal goals, including your wellbeing targets, and giving yourself some reflection or contemplation time away from the noise of building up everyday chores, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Below, I look at three steps to enhance your wellbeing through personal quality time.

1. Think about what you want to achieve

Start by asking yourself some questions to determine what you would like to achieve in terms of your wellbeing.

  1. What does wellbeing mean to you?
  2. What steps could you take during the holiday time to enhance your wellbeing?
  3. What would you try now if you knew you could not fail?
  4. How does this decision match up with who you know you are?
  5. What story is holding you back?
  6. What are you trying to prove to yourself?
  7. How committed are you to achieving this?

2. Consider how you are going to achieve it

Once you have had some initial positive thinking space, it’s important to put your thoughts and plans into action. Commit to specific dates and times; it will help you stick to your plan and overcome resistance.

  1. What would you act on first?
  2. Is there anything that could stop you from doing it?
  3. How could you overcome potential obstacles?
  4. How would you feel once you’ve achieved your goal?
  5. What impact would it have on people around you?

3. Tackle misconceptions

Having a clear plan of action is important; however, we need to be aware of thinking traps and challenge cognitions and biases that could influence our decision-making or actions in a negative way. It is not necessarily the case of automatically dismissing all negative thoughts or turning them into positives without dealing with them, which can be quite unhealthy. According to Creed et al (2011), ‘‘the key is recognising that there are errors in the logic behind the thoughts, because the errors are a sign that the thoughts could be explored and changed to be more helpful.’’ Some of the common thinking traps are all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralisation, jumping to conclusions, emotional reasoning and confirmation bias.

Let’s address some of the main cognitive errors by asking the following questions:

  1. What/who tells you that this assumption is true?
  2. Could there be other explanations?
  3. Is this thought helpful?
  4. What is the impact of you believing this thought?
  5. What should you do about it?


Another way to address them is to use a 3C approach: ‘‘Catch, Check and Change.’’ (Granholm et al., 2005). This could be used with staff or pupils to enhance awareness of the thought process and potential errors that could occur.

Wishing you all peaceful and personally enriching holidays.

Maria O’Neill is an advanced skills teacher, e-safety coordinator and head of PSHE, wellbeing coach and a PhD student researching wellbeing and personal development. She is the founder of @HealthyToolkit and @UKPastoralChat

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