In the second of our features on work life balance for teachers, we explore how looking after yourself and adopting tools and technology can help you reclaim more of your free time.
Missed Part 1? Catch up here
5. Learn to say no
Accepting that your plate is full and saying no to additional tasks will not mean you will be fired!
Often the most successful people are the ones who say no a lot. There’s a wealth of online resources on how to identify which tasks are delivering the most value and how to stop doing the rest. Read more
6. Manage stress
“…People who cultivate a positive mindset perform better in the face of challenge. Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles at the gym. Recent research on neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change even in adulthood—reveals that as you develop new habits, you rewire the brain.” Source: Positive Intelligence, Harvard Business Review (HBR), January-February 2012, Shawn Achor.
Being told to relax and have some time off often makes stressed people more irritable. For each of us managing our stress may need a different approach.
- Copy the techniques of your less stressed colleagues. Find out how they cope, what training gaps you have or just ask for help.
- Reframe your stress. For example, ask yourself these questions: What’s the worst that can happen? Even the worst case scenario can be managed. Can the deadline be changed? Can you ask for it to be changed?
- Identify your circles of control. For example, you cannot control your pupil’s results, but you can prepare them to the best of your ability and find ways of interpreting how results can be improved at an individual level through our question level analysis.
- Ask for new skills and training for your role
- Take a course in emotional intelligence
- Read up about stress. The more you know about it the more geared up you are to identifying it and tackling it.
- Give yourself a boost – use cognitive restructuring techniques. Making yourself remember past your successes can help retrain your brain to act more positively. So re-read previous references or those glowing reports you got and remind yourself of how great you are.
A positive brain performs significantly better at tasks.
8. Get the right fuel
Along with sleep, nutrition is the key element in ensuring your health and wellbeing. When we are stressed, often what we eat is the first area to suffer. Cheap, convenient and fast food is often what we reach for first. Or when we feel like we are lacking in energy or stress is overwhelming we turn to comfort food.
Instead of giving us comfort or energy, however, these types of food have the opposite effect. In actual fact, eating more fruit, vegetables and fibre can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
When we become stressed our adrenal glands produce adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol – which can increase depression, insulin resistance, diabetes and heart disease. When we are feeling stressed, therefore, we should be eating foods that help stabilise our blood sugars and support the adrenal glands. Foods high in Vitamin C, Magnesium and B vitamins are all important. The Stress Management Society provides food advice for each stress symptom. So if you are grinding your jaw while reading this – try eating some nuts or mushrooms on toast!
9. Get more sleep
If you are averaging less than 7 hours of sleep a day, then we recommend reading Matthew Walker’s the “Why We Sleep”. Its shocking revelations about how sleep impacts your entire life, your biology and even your life expectancy will make you start prioritising sleep in your day.
Rest and recuperation often take a back seat when we are busy, and it’s hard to switch off after a hectic day, but the benefits of sleep are enormous and can help to solve all sorts of health and mental problems.
Walker’s key tips to ensuring you get enough sleep are:
- Give yourself an ‘eight-hour sleep opportunity’ every night.
- Set yourself a bedtime and wake up time and stick to it.
- Remove blue-electronic light an hour before bed. Ensure you have no blue light in your bedroom.
- Keep the temperature cool.
- Avoid caffeine after 1pm.
- Don’t stay in bed awake – get up and do something – as long as it’s not eating or looking at a screen. Then try again.
10. Use technology
Government studies have shown that as well as long hours and workload, managing excessive data is a key source of stress for teachers.
Teachers “reported spending hours recording data on multiple programmes, analysing, and having to report in different ways for different audiences. Recording, inputting, monitoring and analysing data was the reported as being burdensome by a majority (56%) of the sample respondents, and 25% suggested reducing the need for data inputting and analysis as a solution to unnecessary workload.”
Dr Almuth McDowall, head of occupational psychology at Birkbeck, University of London believes that “it’s well established that you can cope with a very stressful job if you’ve got control and support”
We believe that our teaching profession can be made better with tools to speed up workflows and automate common tasks. This allows you to focus on your students, and rediscover the joy in your job. Find out more.