It’s Time To Take A Break

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Why is it important to take a break?

When it comes to holidaying in the holidays, some teachers just can’t do it. They can’t find their brain’s off switch so they carry on and graze on their work. Not being able to power down is a sign of being stressed.

Rather than see lesson planning and resourcing as toxic waste for a few weeks they continue to touch it and this contaminates their ‘me’ time and their family and friends time. They are mentally tethered to teaching and this can masquerade as being ‘conscientious’ and ‘committed’ – it isn’t.

Hard work never killed anyone? Really?

Holidays can boost your heart health and regular recharging of batteries can even increase your life expectancy. Fatigue, depression, irritability and worry all take their toll and kill your personality because you become moody, grumpy and a shadow of your former self.

Break up or Breakdown?

All work and no play makes Jack a burnout mess, less creative, angst-ridden and prone to errors. Rest and relaxation really are good for mind, body and spirit. Okay, the holidays are a good time to reflect and think back to what worked and what didn’t and yes, a little work is professionally inevitable so the ship doesn’t sink on day one.

However, a proper break where you cut all ties to your profession is crucial to mental health and wellbeing and without breaking free you can easily stumble into breakdown territory when the new term starts. We can pay a heavy price for inadequate physical and psychological recovery.

5 Reasons Why Holidays Are Good For You

If you are ‘on holiday’, then that is precisely what you should be on and nowhere else … and certainly not ‘at work’.

Working on school stuff at home, checking work emails and social media every 2 minutes, is not having a break. Taking a break makes you feel better, helps you manage stress, improves sleep patterns, reduces blood pressure, strengthens relationships and helps you regain perspective.

1. Your brain needs a breather

Cognitive functioning improves not by overworking and always have your mind on the job but by letting your brain breathe. Without the time and space to get away we make mistakes, forget and become less productive. We need to reboot and reset.

Shutting down teacher mode will improve your memory and concentration levels and you will find yourself in a much happier mood.

2. You need new memories

When you take a break then you take yourself away from the day job and build new experiences and new memories.

You don’t have to go to the Seychelles or New York to do it (although that would be nice) but going places is important so you ‘do and see’ things that excite you, challenge you and relax you. These will be treasured memories to share with others rather than sharing how much work you did.

When life does get stressful you need memories to fall back on to help you cope – memories of lesson planning in the summer won’t do that!

3. Your family and friends need you

….and you need them too. The summer holiday is the time to invest in your family and friends so that you can enjoy special moments together and remind yourself what life is all about. This is the time to have a laugh and experience new things with one another.

You have earned every minute of your holiday so why would you spend any of it working? Relationships come first.

4. Your body starts to live again

Removing yourself from all things teaching is going to make you feel better and cope better in the long-term. It’s well-known that taking time off reduces physical complaints such as headaches and backaches and taking respite from work can strengthen our body’s natural defence mechanisms and prevent chronic inflammation.

Going somewhere that removes us from the reminder of our day job and teaching responsibilities can elevate our mood by reducing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. A break releases happy hormones and these act as natural painkillers.

5. You are more optimistic

Research has shown that people who take proper time out are happier and more satisfied with their lives even in the face of a heavy workload on their return. A good holiday can instil hope in us, give us an emotional lift, make us more positive and far more engaged with the world. Holidays can stop us from becoming mood-hoovers.

Unplugging from teaching will recharge you.

 And finally…

Without proper recovery periods our ability to continue performing at high levels reduces significantly.

A holiday gives us a chance to turn off the our stress systems, to convalesce, to mend and heal before the ‘manic’ term begins. Don’t feel guilty for taking time off because you are entitled to it.

How do you want to go back to school – at peace or in pieces?

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