I distinctly remember working in schools on the run up to Christmas feeling like a never-ending sequence of sapping, challenging but ultimately enjoyable events. Whether they were parties, shows, nativities, carol services or Christingle services the run up to Christmas was exhausting. It was also for me one of the best times of the year with excitement amongst the children and anticipation of a break amongst staff contributing to a special last two weeks of term.
Quite how they manage that in Australia combined with it being the end of the school year has often baffled me. It is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods, physically and mentally for schools and when you combine that with stress levels high in the wider community with Christmas approaching and the fact for some that Christmas isn’t a happy time, the run up to Christmas is very demanding.
There is a sense when you finally make it over the line for the Christmas break that you can relax, but essentially only the pressures from the run up to Christmas in school are over. Its now time to do all the things that those not working in schools have done over the previous weeks, as you catch up on the preparations for Christmas at home. Christmas card writing left dangerously close to the cut off date for deliveries before Christmas, present wrapping and house decorating all now demanding your attention.
Add into this mix the constant presence of Covid, this year and especially the run up to Christmas has been one of the toughest, if not the toughest ever in schools. I hope therefore that if you are reading this, you’re at home with a glass of something nice and are able to reflect on the huge contribution you have made to keeping things as normal for our learners as possible at a time when things just aren’t normal. I might not have the authority of the Secretary of State, but I just want to register my admiration for the way that you have coped with everything that has come your way this and to thank you for your relentless professionalism.
I also wanted to try to support you with an antidote to the stress of the term and whilst a glass of mulled wine might help, there are other things that I would urge you to build into your Christmas break.
Where possible try to get out and walk each day. Being in nature especially when it is cold and crisp outside is good for your mental health; appreciating and noticing the things that we drive past every day as we rush to school. These things are there all the time but its only when we make time that we realise that these things continue without us and help us to put our busy lives into some form of context.
Mindfulness is such an incredibly powerful tool in supporting our mental wellbeing and helping us to place into context what seems to be a treadmill of ever-increasing speed.
I know for some, arriving home after school has finished for the term and eating is enough to have some people asleep by 8pm! Seriously though, sleep is so important. It is when our body renews itself and builds strength to fight bugs and viruses so try to build that into your Christmas wellbeing.
Sleep is also a great way to dial down on the stress hormone cortisol and help you to relax and it is critical that we find time to relax over Christmas for the sake of our broader health.
I dare say that you’ve heard these messages before and know them well but there is a leap to be taken between knowing the messages and doing something about them. This holiday more than ever we need to be putting them in place for the sake of our health and as we approach a new year it is time to make a resolution that we will put our health first. Below is a simple chart for you to be able to rag rate your wellbeing is the first few weeks of the year. As you go through the week highlight with either red, orange, or green markers depending on whether you feel you have met the objectives below.
This will help to give you a very visual understanding of where your wellbeing needs improving but like every new year resolution, whatever you decide to do needs sticking to!
I hope that you and yours have a relaxing and Covid free Christmas and that you are able to relax. We at SAS stand ready alongside you to support you in the new year and to help you to navigate whatever the new year brings.
Until then on behalf of us all at SAS, I’d like to wish you a very happy Christmas and every best wishes for health and happiness in 2022.
Weekly Wellbeing Indicator
In terms of sleep, we should be getting 8 hours a night.
Nutrition should include a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals.
Exercise should be 3 x 20 min periods a week and it should make you hot
Relaxation – something you do each day for at least half an hour that helps you to relax