Stress: Taking a longer term view

stressed-smallThe last week has seen me move house.   A stressful process filled with problems.   Lets just say it hasn’t gone at all smoothly.   At this point a week after the main part of the move the house is still filled with boxes yet to be unpacked however I suspect the coming weekend will be used to address most of that.   It is with this change of circumstance, a new house, that I have come to reflect.

My original plan having returned to the UK from the UAE had been to rent for a short period of time before then buying a house.    That short period of time turned out to be just over 2 years.   Looking back the two years disappeared in a flash.     Thinking a little harder I can identify some of the difficulties and issues which led to the elongated period of renting.   I can also remember the stress associated with some of these issues.   Sleepless nights have resulted along with arguments and heated discussions within the family and with individuals outside the family.    Taking a helicopter view and looking out over the 2 years, the issues got addressed and maybe therefore some of the stress was unwarranted.  It didn’t help and served only to impact on the health and well being of the family.

This week has also seen me reflecting with my team as part of the annual appraisal process.   On a number of occasions during discussions we have identified projects which we have felt have not progressed at the rate with which we had wanted.   These projects have caused stress and angst.    Looking at them though through a wider perspective we see that progress was made and that some of the factors which slowed or even stopped progress were out with our control.    It is only looking long term and taking all things into account that we see the limited progress as being reasonable given the constraints and other factors which existed.    In the short term, in the here and now, this isn’t appreciated and the progress is just seen as below expectation.   The stress and angst at the issues in the short term serve little purpose when viewed across the longer term, other than to impact on the health and well being of the individuals concerned.

As I reflect I have come to realise that in the short term there is lot we don’t know, don’t perceive or don’t appreciate, that we will come to more aware of when we look back across the longer term.   It is this that we need to be aware of.   That sometimes we over stress, over think and that this impacts on our well being.   We need to keep in mind that we will eventually view these issues over a longer time frame at which point it is likely that we will be able to appreciate things we can’t in the short term.    We should therefore be wary of our stress levels and of stressing out at issues for in the longer term all this is likely to achieve is damage to our health and well being.

For me as I continue the process of moving I will bear this in mind such that the next time I feel stressed I will take a step back and remind myself that in the long term, with the appropriate level of effort, things generally work out.




TV box sets and feelings of guilt

Over the last week or so I have taken some time off and not been as active on social media, my blog, and otherwise online as I had been previously throughout the year.    This is not due to spending time planning for the year ahead, to reading books or to anything else that might be considered productive.   In-fact I have spent at least a few days of the week or so off just engaged in watching TV box sets.   The problem with this is that at various points in this period of “vegging out” I have found myself feeling guilty as to my inactivity.

Over the last year to date I have read a variety books about how to be effective, productive or how to get the best from myself or from the teams which I work with.   This includes reading Andrew Cope’s Being Brilliant, Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit among others.   Each of the books talks about how we tackle obstacles, build positive habits and generally work smarter.   They are all about making the most of the limited resources in relation to time and also our limited cognitive resources.   None of these books talk about vegging out in front of Game of Thrones for two or three days.   It may be that this reading plays some part in my feelings of guilt.   Clearly I am not making the best of my cognitive abilities or the time I have available to me if all I am doing is watching John Snow mount his defence of Winterfell.  As a result I feel guilty for wasting my valuable resources.   Clearly I should be doing something with my time.

My current reading of Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death however has got me thinking that maybe I need to reconsider the factors which lead me to feelings of guilt.    Becker talks about a paradox of individuality versus our finite lifespan, and of thought versus body.    Clearly most of my activities focus on thought, in planning, in writing and sharing thoughts, in working out how to make most of my time and resources and of putting into practice the outcomes of my thinking.    I have built a habit of these efforts; how can I make best use of my time?   How can I prioritize tasks?   How can I ensure I get all tasks that need doing done?  This habit then leads to the feeling of guilt when I try and break with the habit and sit and watch TV for hours on end.   But what about what Becker refers to as body or what about a break from thought?

As I am not really a fitness focused person I think a break from thought as opposed to action focused on body or fitness aligns more with my priorities.    Considering thought or our cognitive ability as being of limited resource might it not be necessary to provide this resource some respite occasionally?    Might a person not feel re-energized following a period of rest from thought?  Could it be that a limited period of vegging out might have a positive outcome?

As I return to the online sphere after a short break my guilt is the issue which worries me as opposed to the time spent sat watching the TV.   The guilt indicates that internally I feel I shouldn’t be spending any significant time sat glued to the screen.    Yet I enjoyed some time catching up on some TV.   I felt relaxed.    I felt at rest.     Is a period of TV watching or similar vegging out just another luxury which in moderation has its place?      At this point I would suggest it is and therefore hopefully when I next decide to sit down for a period of serial TV watching I may be able to do so and enjoy it more, devoid of feelings of guilt.

Do you have any time set aside for vegging out during the summer holiday period?  Is it your guilty pleasure or just a big no no and a waste of time?




It’s the little things that make the difference!

I have been struggling in addressing my personal fitness for a significant part of the year.   Ideas with regarding taking up jogging have came and went.   I just cannot seem to get up in the morning early enough to go out before work and am too tired after work.    I have considered buying a running machine, however I remember my previous attempts when upon purchasing one out in the UAE the most exercise it ever saw was the two blokes who had the unfortunate job of carrying it up the stairs.    I just seem unable to make much in the way of progress.   The want, or mind, is there however the motivation, the heart, isn’t.

groundsThat was until the other morning, when I decided to park my car on the other side of the school campus due to attending an event in the evening at that side of the school and wanting to leave directly from there.   The walk across the school took around 10 minutes and according to my phone accounted for around 850 steps, most of which being uphill.    Then it hit me, here was an easy solution at least to make some progress towards improved fitness;  to park at the other side of school every morning and walk across the campus.    This would amount to regular exercise without have much of a significant impact on my working day.   Yes I would need to get up slightly earlier however it would also give me the opportunity to network with colleagues who I suspect would be around campus in the mornings, as well as allowing me to take in the lovely grounds of the school.    I would be getting exercise, appreciating the surroundings and also improving my overall visibility and presence on site.

So there we have it; a little thing in parking across school, which could make a big difference.    I suppose, if I am being honest, this is easy enough now however the challenge will be whether I can keep it up when the winter weather returns!

Time to recharge

The last week or so has seen me less engaged in the social side of education, including blogging and tweeting, than normal.  I have also been less engaged in reading and almost totally disengaged in anything akin to exercise.   I have found myself content to arrive home at the end of each day, do some prep work for the following day and then lapse a dazed state watching popular TV watching.

Looking at my twitter activity over the last few weeks I have returned to the point of re-tweeting some brilliant posts and ideas from others rather than contributing anything much new myself.  This is something I am a little critical of as in my early use of twitter this was the limited extent to which I was involved.   At that time, and on reflection, I vowed to make an effort to be a sharer but also a contributor and therefore a return to sharing alone represents a step backwards.

The question at hand is why this has happened and why I now find myself in this situation.    I think the answer to this question lies in looking at all the things that went on during February.   During February I took place in #29daysofwriting during which time I wrote 29 blog entries, 1 for each day of February.   I also took part in #teacher5adaysketch and made some attempts around getting a little bit fitter as part of #teacher5aday.

I have previously written on the benefits of treating life as a series of sprints as opposed to a marathon (you can read this posting here) however there is a down side to this approach.    The downside for me appears to have hit me during the last few weeks.


My sprint through February has left me a little depleted in terms of energy and motivation.    As such my TV watching has been an attempt to recharge my batteries and build up on my currently depleted reserves of energy.

Looking back at my posting on sprinting through activities I still stand by my comments however in hindsight I will add one additional point.  If you plan to sprint through an activity be aware of the impact it will have on your energy reserves and the fact that following the spring you will need to rebuild these reserves.  Also, the bigger the sprint, the bigger the required recharge period so after 29 blog posts in a month, plus a number of other activities I need a larger recharge period than if the sprint was focused on a lesser or single activity.    Looking back I now see the importance of including a period for recharging within my plan and making sure you stuck to it.

I now feel I am coming out of my recharge period, which is further helped by the bank holiday weekend.   With that in mind, onwards and upwards!!



Not another email!!


During the day things can be hectic and busy which leads to a focus on getting the things done in school that need doing and leaving some other things until later.    One of these things can be communication and in particular email communication.    In addition to this we quite often identify things we have forgotten to deal with or come up with great ideas when we are relaxed and no longer in work mode, as normally happens at the end of the day or on weekends.    This again quite often involves email and sending out last minute reminders or requests, and on sending out proposals or posing questions all via email.    Through this we can see large volumes of email being sent at hours outside what would normally be considered normal working hours.

If you are anything like me, when your phone or tablet bleeps to inform you a new message has arrived we invariably look at it.   This is independent of whether this happens during the school day or outside the school day.   The reaction could be described as learned behavior.       Having read the message you will then react to it with some reactions being positive and others not so positive.   This can then colour and impact on your time, which technically should be non-work time.   Recently I found myself not sleeping very well having read a particularly troubling email sent to me late into the evening.   I am convinced the reason for my inability to sleep being that my mind was running both consciously and subconsciously through the issue in hand and all the possible actions which could be taken to resolve things.   All this meant was that I did not enjoy the time I had available to me outside work and I arrived at work more tired than normal the following day albeit with a more detailed picture of my possible options in relation to the issue at hand.

We can try to address this through self control and choosing not to look at messages however after your phone has bleeped five times in an evening I would challenge most people to have ignored the phone.

I am conscious of the ever creeping of work into my home life so have been trying to do something about it.   I cannot control what and when others send me email however I can control my actions and hope that by doing so it will encourage others.

My current approach is to write my emails in the evening and on the weekend when I need to but to save them to draft rather than sending them.   I then send them in the morning of the next working day.   I do note, however, that were issues are emergencies, and by description this should be few and far between, I do engage in emailing out outside of working hours.

How do you manage email?