Working with children is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do, but it is hard work, tiring and demanding and can leave you feeling stressed and drained.
Working with children is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do, but it is hard work, tiring and demanding and can leave you feeling stressed and drained. I have no doubt that this year will have been full-on for you and you are now feeling so ready for the holidays.
Unfortunately, after working non-stop for months we can often find our bodies seem to shut down when the holidays arrive and instead of being able to have lots of fun, we find ourselves with colds, headaches or some sort of bug! Why is that? Well, it is all to do with stress hormones and the impact they have on our bodies. The summer holidays are a good opportunity to begin to prioritise your self-care and wellbeing and even if you have children to look after, work to do and a million household jobs to complete before September – there is a lot you can do to take some control back and enjoy the holidays to the fullest.
Understanding stress hormones and the brain
Working in a school can be fast-paced and demanding and there is often a lot of pressure on you to get a million things done at once. Working like this day in and day out can increase the levels of stress hormones in your body. When we are stressed, our survival responses are turned on and we respond to the stressful situation with fight, flight or freeze. We might fight back and work extra hard to get things done, we might go into freeze mode and not know what to do and feel overwhelmed, or we might go into flight mode where we avoid the harder bits and procrastinate. We all respond with fight, flight, and freeze when we feel threatened or when our body perceives danger.
Being overworked and tired with a million challenges to face is a modern-day issue that causes our bodies to feel attacked and under threat. When this happens, stress hormones are released into our body which is designed to help us deal with whatever is happening. We have physiological changes too like our heart rate and blood pressure increase and glucose is released into the bloodstream to help us have the energy we need to respond. Stress hormones are only designed to be used in the case of a real emergency where we are in danger. But our fast-paced lives mean many of us live in a constant state of stress!
Prolonged stress can have long-term consequences and begin to impact our physiological and mental health and our wellbeing. We may find ourselves struggling with health issues, aches and pains. We might struggle to feel calm and at peace, constantly working from a place of survival and expecting the next stressful thing to happen. We might even be so used to the stress of life that when things get quiet, we feel anxious and uncomfortable, and we fill our time with more things to do! We have all been in that situation where we have 30mins of quiet but instead of sitting down, we choose to wash the dishes, prep dinner or hoover! We are constantly filling our time and feeding our state of stress that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, tired, drained and unhappy!
One of the things we often joke about in education is how we are always poorly at the end of the term. But there is a reason for this! Your bodies have been working from a high place of stress for so long, that when you finally have some time to slow down, you feel the impact of it all! One of the ways stresses impact our bodies is to shut down the immune system and stop your body from fighting off illness and so you are far more susceptible to getting poorly. You may also find that you are more snappy, irritable and that you struggle to sleep!
Find ways to reduce your stress hormones
The summer holidays are a good opportunity to reduce the levels of stress hormones in your body and come out of that state of survival but to do that, you need to be conscious about what you are doing to take control back!
Detox from technology
The first big thing you can do is not replace the stress of work, with technology and overuse on your phone. Technology also increases stress hormones and can keep you in that place of survival. We all know that feeling of being sucked into our phones and looking up 40mins later! Or constantly feeling the need to check our phones which takes us away from real life and increases our feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. That isn’t good for any of us, especially if we have children at home or we are trying to relax!
One of the most impactful things you can do is be mindful about how you use your phone during the holidays and limit your screen time. I have written a blog post about this on my website called
3 ways to take control back from your phone
Sleep is another really important part of looking after your wellbeing and reducing stress hormones. You may have found that your sleep has been disrupted recently which will impact how you feel during the day. Sleep helps us reduce stress, improve mood, think clearly and problem-solve. It also helps reduce inflammation and is important for our memory.
That said, I know how easy it is to turn on Netflix after a day with the kids and find yourself going to bed late! Getting a good night’s sleep will make you feel like a superhero so prioritise it as much as you can.
My Top Tips
Make the house cosy an hour before bed
Turn off the main lights, close the curtains and turn on lamps or soft lighting, you might even want to light some candles. Creating a calm environment before bed tells your body it is time to relax and wind down and this will help you sleep better at night!
Avoid coffee, cigarettes, vaping and alcohol
These things negatively impact sleep and can keep you awake at night! Try to avoid drinking them at least 4 hours before bed as they stay in your bloodstream for a long time and are stimulants.
Wear comfy clothes
I will never forget a conversation I had with a Head Teacher once where I was joking about getting home to put my onesie on. He laughed and said he couldn’t believe I wore a onesie and told me he didn’t change into comfy clothes in the evening but wore jeans! Now, fair enough I wouldn’t expect everyone to adopt my love of onesies but I was shocked to find he didn’t wear comfy clothes before bed. If you don’t, I would highly recommend trying some jogging bottoms, leggings or Pyjama bottoms for your evenings. Wearing comfy clothes will help you relax and send a signal to your brain that it is time to calm down and wind down. Simple things like this make all the difference!
Avoid technology before bed
Try to avoid technology before bed and opt for reading if you can!
Get into a routine
Our bodies rely on sleep to help us function. A simple way to help us get better sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. This helps set our body clock to get into a rhythm and cycle and it works! My suggestion would be 10.30 pm – 7 am if you can (though I know this isn’t always possible with those of you who have children!)
There is so much more I could say on sleep but we will leave it there for now!
Small steps to self-care
Taking small steps every day to focus on your own wellbeing and mental health will help you decrease your stress hormone and improve your mood and sense of happiness over the summer!
Here are some ideas you can try:
- Take 10mins of mindful time a day. Do something simple like sitting outside with a cup of tea and just taking in the air and focusing on your drink. This will give your mind time to regulate itself, calm down and feel at peace. The more you do this, the easier it will be to manage stress day to day.
- Start a gratitude journal – write down 4 things at the end of every single day that you are thankful for, that went well, or that were positive. At the end of the week re-read what you wrote. It might be that someone said something nice to you, or someone did something nice for you. It might be that you had a lie in or enjoyed talking to a friend but this is a great way to re-focus your thoughts on the positives and find time to be reflective and at peace each day. A good time to do this is in bed before you go to sleep.
- Do something each day that makes you happy. It might be going for a walk each morning or once a week with the dog, running or going for a bike ride. It might be swimming or gardening or listening to a podcast. Find something that you enjoy that you do because you want to, not because you have to, and carve yourself time out during the week to do it. Tell the people you love that this is important for your wellbeing and make sure they support you with it. It could be as simple as having a bath each night.
- Meditate – an amazing way to reduce stress and refocus the mind. I will link some meditations below.
- Laugh – find time to laugh and play, have fun and be silly. It might be dancing around your house with your children, listening to songs whilst you cook or being playful and silly. But find time and space to laugh. Laughter is the best way to reduce stress hormones – in fact, stress hormones cannot live in an environment which has lots of endorphins, which is a happy hormone. So, give yourself a healthy dose of laughter from time to time!
Whatever you do, look after you!! You do so much to take care of everyone else, but remember, you matter too!
Have a lovely summer.
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