When the washing machine breaks down – dealing with the stresses and strains of school leadership #worldmentalhealthday

I don’t know about you but I’ve had a stressful week. 

Today is World Mental Health Day so I felt it appropriate to talk about dealinging with the stresses and strains of school leadership. 

Teaching is a stressful profession but also an immensely rewarding one. 

Yesterday, I started to pull together the schools’ policy on well-being to better support staff in the out workings of their daily duties. Staff well-being is extremely important to me but as a school leader I know that I set the emotional temperature in school. So monitoring my own levels of resilience is important. Last week at the @womened unconference in London, I was invited to speak about juggling life and leadership. Reading the post conference tweets, I think this was strand had a huge impact on the attendees. 

My session was called when the washing machine breaks down. My thinking behind it was as a working mum of three the one thing that tells a good tale in my house is the laundry. If there is a lot to deal with I quite often put it off and ignore it. I close the door to the utility room until I can tackle the washing mountain. 

In school, quite often I think that my office is a bit of a laundry room. I am the washing machine. Staff call in to often offload their problems and concerns. I work with them listen to the problem – add a bit of comfort and hope that the cycle of support I put in place is sufficient to help them go forward. 

As a school leader, I can’t allow the dirty laundry to pile up as it becomes an impossible mountain to climb. Your resilience is attacked my the endless amount of to dos. If you as the leader breakdown and none of the staff or pupils issues can be dealt with. You become ineffective and broken. 

If you ever get to this point – please get fixed. Washing machines breakdown all the time and they can be repaired. Whilst I am no plumber, I would encourage anyone feeling like this to seek support. 

Within our Education System you have support.

1. Tell someone how you are really feeling – a problem shared is a problem halved…

2. Seek profession support from your GP or from Carecall (Ireland) or the teachers support network (England). 

3. If you are offered counselling take the opportunity. Talking through the issues with someone who completely removed from situation is very useful to regain perspective. 

4. One of the best things I learned a long time ago was to be reflective – journal your thoughts – if you can’t be honest with yourself it can be hard to move forward to identify the issues that are getting you down.

5. Remember it’s ok to walk away from the school office. Go for a walk clear your head. 

6. Find a coach to support you in your role – if you get the opportunity get training to become a coach yourself.

7. Think positive – surround yourself with positive people – negatrons zap your energy.

8. Switch off at the weekend… Do something that’s not school related – Monday comes very quickly. Enjoy family time. 

None of us know what’s around the corner – look after the washing machine and give it the occasional service… In other words look after yourself!

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