With the imminence of half term it is a good time to create space for yourself and the things that will make you happier and healthier. The trick then is to incorporate those things into your daily routine when you are back at school.
In the next four blog posts I’ll be looking at the four key aspects of well-being. By my reckoning if you can get these right then you will have a more enjoyable and healthier life. There’s no great secret to this but if you get enough rest and relaxation, enough sleep, you eat well and you incorporate movement and exercise into your life, you will be more productive and less prone to illness. What’s more, the science suggests that there are biological reasons why this is the case.
In the first of these blogs we are going to be looking at rest and relaxation.
As a teaching workforce we have become conditioned to almost see rest and relaxation as a luxury and working at heightened levels of stress is often seen as us working at our optimum. However whilst stress isn’t in itself bad for us, prolonged exposure to stress is.
When we’re stressed we produce more of a hormone called Cortisol. This hormone has always been a friend as it helps to fight off threats, historically to our very existence when threatened. However when we are constantly stressed Cortisol steals the building blocks of other hormones meaning that other hormones aren’t able to be produced. This affects things like sex drive, overall muscular strength and can even lead to chronic disease.
For women it can lead to lower amounts of oestrogen and progesterone being produced as the Cortisol steals the building blocks of these important hormones. Reducing Cortisol theft by creating space for relaxation has seen oestrogen and progesterone levels return to normal in some women.
The ongoing stress of an imminent Ofsted can therefore affect your health and is potentially damaging to your wider health and well-being, if Ofsted is your stressor.
Another critical factor with prolonged stress is that when your body is under attack, which is what 21st century stress feels like, your immune system goes into emergency state. Historically when we hunted wild animals in our prehistoric state, this emergency state was necessary to fight off disease and infection from wounds created when we were attacked. What we know is that depression can be a symptom of biological change in the body which can be driven by inflammation. So feeling down when we are ill isn’t just about not being able to function the way we usually do but is linked to inflammation created by the infection we are fighting off.
We all know how waiting for a stressful experience, whether it be an interview or a big event, can make us feel unable to eat. Yet there is now clear evidence that Cortisol theft has a significant impact on our well-being.
So what can you do to lower stress levels and lower the amounts of Cortisol being produced?
There are a number of things that can help you to relax, but it has to be something that works for you.
I find that the physical exertion of gardening and the space to think of nothing other than what I have in front of me, gives me space to relax. However it could be a nice relaxing bath, a walk, meeting a friend for a catch up and a coffee, painting or playing a musical instrument. Try to build in some time each day preferably two spells of 15 minutes for you to relax and unwind.
Try to keep a note of how you feel when you start and how you feel at the end of a month. You deserve this time.
However, make sure that you don’t use digital devices during this time as the interface makes our brains whirr. What we’re aiming for is calm, not further stimulation for our brains.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his book “The 4 Pillar Plan” suggests slowing your breathing to aid calm. Try following his 3,4,5 plan.
Breathe in for 3 seconds
Hold your breath for 4 seconds
Breathe out for 5 seconds
It’s incredible how it slows you down and creates calm.
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