Whether your Christmas celebrations are a boogie woogie, jazz hands extravaganza, a calm haven of carols, or a festive feast of song and dance, the run-up to the festivities of December can be both a delight and a source of endless exhaustion – and often both!
Keeping calm and healthy amidst the pace and challenges of this term is important even if you find yourself muttering “Bah, humbug” under your breath. It can be a crazy time of year but also an immensely positive one, too. The extra activities and the opportunities for children and adults alike to see each other in a new light can do wonders for boosting effective working relationships as the academic year continues.
So, how can you pace yourself over the coming weeks to ensure that as you wave goodbye to your classes on the last day of term, take down the tinsel and baubles, and make your weary way home, you don’t collapse in a heap reaching for the Lemsip and tissues? These ideas might help:
- Pause… stop, right now, and make a list of all the things you love about this time of year. Think of all the small wins – the winter walks, hot chocolates with a friend, warm fires, crisp air, staying in, comfort food, sparkling lights, sunsets and sunrises, seasonal scents, catching up with family, favourite winter woollies, festive markets, evocative carols… your list should include whatever helps you to feel calm, relaxed and in the moment. Put this list in a prominent place that you will see every day to remind you to actively seek out these comforting winter experiences. It is easy to get swept up in the incessant demands of the “to do” list but grab these opportunities for simple pleasures because they can really make a difference to your overall sense of wellbeing.
- Prioritise… if you take a good look at everything that apparently needs to be done before the end of term you may find there are one or two (or more) tasks that can be set aside for after the holiday. This is about being realistic about what can be achieved in what is a very busy time.
- Prevent… there is evidence out there that great nutrition can help us to ward off winter bugs, and if we succumb, it can help us to feel well again. Stock up on all the healthy foods that you love. Batch cook some soups and stews packed with nutrients that you can easily heat up after a busy day. Take some supplements if you are feeling like a cold may be on the way (your local pharmacist or GP may be able to help).
- Praise… positive words to colleagues as well as pupils will go a long way this festive season. Nearly everyone feels boosted through well-placed praise. Sprinkle it liberally! It just might catch on!
- Pioneer… if your staffroom is the kind of dash in and out variety where staff grab a drink and go, pioneer spending a few minutes having a chat with someone you don’t typically talk to during the course of a usual day. Normalise the humanity in your daily routines. It needn’t take long, but can make a huge difference.
- Parade… OK, walk would be a better word, but it doesn’t fit with the emerging “P” theme! Walking is such a good mood booster and this time of year is perfect for it. Not too hot and with luck, not too wet. Just twenty minutes can be enough to help you get the benefits of enhanced mood. And if you only have ten minutes, that’s fine too!
- Pleasure… notice what is giving you pleasure this term and acknowledge that. That’s not to ignore the stress, rather it allows you to notice that any stress is not usually all-encompassing. Build on the strength you get from those pleasures to tackle the more stressful tasks (or to go about transforming or removing those stressors).
- Plan… once the term ends, it is great to have something to look forward to. Only you can decide what that needs to be. It needn’t cost much – or anything at all – but it does need to be something that you will experience as a treat, and something that will give you a mental boost. Plan it now.
Whether you celebrate the festive season or not, staying calm and healthy at this time of year will greatly help you to enjoy all that this term has to offer. Taking it steady, with plenty of pauses, won’t see you getting behind. At this time when teachers give so much of themselves to their school communities, it is so important not to get so low you end up running on empty. Hopefully these ideas will see you thrive at this special time of year. Enjoy!
Find out more…
- Christmas - Teaching Resources - BBC Teach
- Education Support, supporting teachers and education staff
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.