After a six-week break, the thought of going back to school can be incredibly daunting; it can be extremely difficult to adjust to having a daily routine once more – both mentally and physically. Mark Pinches, head of coaching at Westfield Health, gives his top tips on how to manage stress and ease into the new year
What are the practical steps SBMs can take to reduce stress levels at the beginning of a new school year?
In any high-pressured profession, such as school business management, worrying and ruminating about going back to work will achieve nothing. It’s not the pressure out there that is the problem – it’s our response to pressure that is key – and we all have a choice as to how we respond and react.
We can’t be all things, to all people, all of the time – and we’ll get stressed if we try. Having a certain amount of pressure is good for us, and actually improves engagement and performance, but, if we are anxious and stressed in anticipation of something too far in advance, this is wasted time and energy.
When starting a new academic year it’s important to set schedules, patterns and, particularly, our own body clocks to a healthy regime, both during the working week and at weekends.
What are the common triggers and situations that cause stress?
Extended hours are definitely a problem for those who work in schools. Across the industry, a lack of support and not being listened to leads to feeling alone when faced with pressures. A problem shared is a problem halved, so it’s important to communicate openly with the people we spend the most time with.
A major trigger is ‘too much information’ in this digital age; most is superfluous to requirements yet it adds to our ‘stress bucket’. In our more quiet and reflective moments we need to prioritise and de-clutter those things that don’t give us the best return on our invested time and energy.
Another of the main triggers for stress is lack of a ‘balanced’ feeling, in that SBMs are often busy and have things to do, rather than resting and recovering. Working earlier and later than contracted hours and not taking breaks away from work are common in this industry (#sbmlunch) but have a negative impact if we don’t re-charge the batteries periodically through the day.
When it gets too much, do you have a top tip that SBMs can use for an instant reboot?
Make some space and physically remove yourself from the source of the pressure. Move into a different room or, ideally, out into a ‘green area’ – evidence is compelling to suggest how outdoor spaces have a familiar and calming effect on us.
Some of us have a tendency to work at the weekends; do you have any advice on this?
The obvious question to ask is, is it absolutely necessary to work on weekends? Could it be possible to work an extra hour or so on an evening during the week to free up time on the weekend?
It’s vital to allow yourself time to recharge at the weekend if you’re working Monday to Friday. It’s personal; working weekends does work for some people – however, if it doesn’t for you, don’t do it.
Ask yourself, ‘What really does charge my battery?’ Thinking positively, mindfulness, yoga work for some – high adrenaline sports for others. Above all, know yourself, and allow time and change to figure out what works best for you.
Who are the people SBMs should speak to about their problems?
Evidence shows that, in most professions, peer support works best. People like you, who are in the same boat, can see things from a similar perspective.
Why do some people cope with pressure better than others? They are usually experiencing the same source of pressure but often have a different reaction. The key is to open up to people that you can trust to listen and who have your interests at heart. A safe, friendly and approachable sounding board may be the best conversation you’ve ever had if it leads to a positive behaviour change.