Work-life balance - Less pain and strain

This term often seems harder than the others, but keep going. Steven Hastings advises how to focus on the positives and keep yourself healthy

The days are getting darker, the workload's getting heavier and the long autumn term stretches out ahead. But there are ways of surviving until Christmas. It's even possible to enjoy the next few months and have the satisfaction of being set up for the rest of the year.

"It can seem a much harder term that the others," says Sarah Hannafin, assistant headteacher at Chichester High School for Boys. "You need to put work into planning, building new relationships and setting boundaries with new pupils. It can be tiring. But if you make an effort now you'll reap the benefits for the whole year."

Planning lessons ahead, organising your room and mastering new names and timetables all help things run smoothly. Sarah says: "I plot `hot spots' - a few days that might be particularly difficult because reports are due or there are exams to mark, and I plan for them well in advance."

Taking time out at the beginning of term to get on top of small jobs at home can also make a difference. Sorting household bills, having the car serviced and stocking the freezer can all save stress and strain later on.

But it's not just the payments and paperwork that need attention. "The most important thing is to look after yourself," says Elaine MacDonald, an education consultant in Scotland. Eating well, getting enough sleep, and making time to exercise are all important. "Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're too tired to go for a walk or to cook a nice meal. These things give you more energy in the long run."

Elaine also suggests prioritising jobs - and knowing where to draw the line. "There's no point trying to be a hero. It's counterproductive to go on marking or preparing if you're feeling exhausted."

Don't be depressed if you slink off to bed before the evening watershed: accept that you'll need a bit of extra sleep and try to programme one quiet night a week. Learn to relax. Whether it's music or massage, spend an hour recharging the batteries. And best of all, give yourself a treat.

"Ditch the guilt and pamper yourself," says Elaine. "Don't think vaguely about a weekend away. Book something, so it's there in your diary."

Planning a few treats is a good way to split up the term. The thought of a long, hard haul to the Christmas break can be depressing.

It's easier to cope if you look at it as a series of manageable chunks, and use the mid-term break as a real chance to take time out.

"Work the first or last weekend of half-term and nothing else," suggests Sarah. "Sleep, rest, chill out, enjoy. Make sure you feel like you've actually had a holiday."

Elaine agrees. "You can't always be going at 100mph. And when you start to flag, stay positive. Remember what an important job you're doing. You make a difference - even if you don't always realise it."

A helping hand .

- Set two or three realistic goals for the term. Celebrate when you achieve one.

- Cut back on alcohol. It can upset sleep patterns and leave you more tired.

- Look after your voice and drink water through the day.

- Coughs, colds and sore throats reach their peak in November. Take time now to eat and exercise properly.

- Find a hobby. It will help you relax.

- Put a treat in your diary every two or three weeks to break up the long term.

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