We have all experienced periods at work where things are very stressful and we cannot seem to get anything done, or other people and situations are making work difficult for us. Rushing around all day, not managing to complete anything or deal effectively with issues is a common problem. We sometimes need to take time out just to regain some element of control.

The following is a technique that people have used successfully to address this situation. Firstly, find a quiet place (e.g. an empty classroom or office, your car in the school car park, even the loo!) and sit down, making yourself comfortable. Try the following exercise:

  • Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and mentally consider various parts of your body in turn, from your feet upwards. Think about how that part feels at this particular moment -is it comfortable, or tense?
  • Concentrate particularly on your neck, jaw, face, forehead, and your abdomen. If they seem tense, allow them to relax one by one – feel the tension flowing away.
  • Concentrate on your breathing – breathe deeply in through your nose, then out slowly through your mouth. Make sure that your stomach area participates in the breathing process – this allows the full capacity of your lungs to be used.
  • Concentrate on your breathing for a minute or two – it is considered by some that proper breathing has a profound positive effect on your well-being.
  • Imagine that the person sitting here is actually somebody else. It can be helpful if that person is someone you admire – this may be someone in your family, a film star or respected friend. Imagine that the real ‘you’ is still back in the classroom, rushing around and being stressed. Try to see the stressed ‘you’ from this other persons viewpoint – what would they consider to be important? How would they cope with the stresses you are faced with?

Priorities

a. Decide for yourself which things are important, and which are just distractions. Decide which things you are going to do today, and which things you are not going to do today. Focus on how you might easily put off some things until later.

b. Try to feel strong with the knowledge that you can do what you need to do, and you will not rush around trying to do twenty things at once.

People

a. Is somebody being difficult? Why are they being difficult? (You might like to also read ‘Influencing’ on the Management Resources website – see below).   b. Work out how your imagined person would deal with this other, difficult person. Would they be less aggressive/subversive? Imagine yourself dealing positively and assertively with the situation, making sure that the outcome is good for all parties.   c. Try to feel strong with the knowledge that you can dowhat you need to do, and you will arrive at a positiveoutcome for all concerned.

  • Hold those thoughts for a short while longer, then gradually bring your awareness back to yourself, all the time holding on to your strength and sense of calm.
  • Sit quietly for a few moments more.

Stride purposefully but calmly back into the classroom. Deal with what you need to do, and at all times try to hold on to your strength and calm.

Plan to spend time de-stressing yourself a couple of times a day, until you are fully and calmly back in control!

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, April 2004.

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