The well-being of staff is a much talked about subject with increased exposure and, as managers, something that we are becoming increasingly good at supporting. However, when you're busy looking after your employees who looks out for you?
I know from experience that being the owner/manager of a busy setting can be both a lonely and stressful place, with many hats to wear and responsibilities where the buck stops with you.
This Wednesday is National Stress Awareness Day and although our stress levels are something we should be aware of and dealing with daily I thought this would be as good a time as any to share my top tips for reducing stress.
You see as someone who has lived with high functioning anxiety for many years I know the impact intense periods of stress can have on us, both physically and mentally. For me, stress manifests itself physically with migraines and mentally with feelings of being overwhelmed but it's different for everybody. Many people may not even realise they are stressed until they have physical symptoms which is what happened in my case. I'd been through a period of having migraine after migraine and, as I was concerned,
I went to see my GP who asked me what I did when I had one. It seemed an odd question but I told her that I went to bed and slept, sometimes for an entire day. I'll always remember her response..... "Sally, it's your body's way of telling you to stop".
When we are feeling stressed everything takes a little longer and small problems can suddenly feel totally overwhelming but we have a tendency to try and push on and work through it. After all people are relying on us right? But what use are you to anyone, let alone yourself, if you end up making yourself ill?
So my first tip to reducing stress is #1. STOP
If you are feeling stressed the best thing that you can do it to stop rather than trying to keep going. It's okay to walk away from the situation and take some time to breathe. There are many ways that you can do this but I find going for a walk really helps to clear my head of everything going on within it. If you have someone within your setting that you can confide in why not take them with you and chat about how you are feeling at the same time. If you don't, try popping on a playlist of your favourite songs as listening to music can help lower your stress levels.
#2. Make time for you
Easier said than done I know when we all lead such busy lives but it's important that you make time to do something for you. Read a book, catch up on a box set or simply have a bath without interruptions. Whatever it is aim for at least 30 minutes (an hour is even better) a day if you can for pure unadulterated "me time".
#3. Reduce your hours
This is not easy when many of us need to be in the setting full time but better to take a little time out now than to keep ploughing on and then being forced to take time off sick if your stress takes hold. Discuss with your employer options for reducing your hours for a temporary period, maybe starting a little later or finishing earlier or perhaps even working from home one day a week where it is quieter and you'll be less disturbed to get on with things that need to be done. As an employee you have the right to request a flexible working pattern even if only in the short term.
#4. Prioritise what needs to be done
One of the most stressful things I found as a nursery owner was the sheer amount of work I needed to do on an almost daily basis. Planning what you are going to do when not only helps to lower your stress but also ensures that nothing gets missed. I do this by brain dumping. It's a way of getting all the things going round in your head down onto paper. Simply take a few minutes to sit quietly and write randomly over a piece of paper all of the things that you need to do. The trick here is write randomly, don't put it into a list. Next take a second piece of paper and mark it into 3 columns - Today, Tomorrow, This week. Then go back to your brain dump and start adding what you have written into your columns by prioritising what you need to do when. It may feel like it all needs to be done today but ask yourself, realistically does it? If you break it down in this way I've found it really helps my feelings of overwhelm and stops me procrastinating.
I can't actually believe I'm saying this as I'm the ultimate control freak and in the past have despised delegating anything to anyone but do you know what..... we can't do everything! Do you have to be the safeguarding lead, health and safety officer and SENDCO as well as manager? Wouldn't it be better and more beneficial to your health to spend time training other members of staff to take on these roles and then overseeing what they are doing rather than having to do it all yourself? Also look at your priority lists and see if there is anything your deputy can do instead of you that will ease some of the pressure. Delegation isn't so bad and I've discovered there are even people out there who enjoy doing the things I don't so now I let them get on with it.
There are of course many other ways to reduce stress, meditation, journalling and yoga to name a few, but the main thing is that you are aware that your stress levels are rising and that you take appropriate action.
If you would like more information on National Stress Awareness Day you can visit 'mind - the mental health charity' here