Ask Anna – How do you stay calm?

Dear Anna, I’m sure you’ve been asked this before but there are three weeks left until Christmas and I’m beginning to panic! Give me some tips on how to stay calm please? Serena

Dear Serena,

This is a very busy time of year for the School Business Leader and it is important that you keep yourself calm. Not only will you have the usual demands of home and work, but in my experience, this time of year, sometimes even more so than in the run up to the Summer, involves everyone else in the school dumping the contents of their desk, diary, filing cabinet, to-do list and calendar onto yours! It’s been a busy term and desks are traditionally cleared in order to make way for some festive fairy light decoration (PAT’ed of course!)

I’m happy to share with you my tips for remaining calm but remember that what works for me might not suit you. It is important to take some time to build your own “stress relief toolkit” before you need it so that it is there ready for you, when you do.

  1. Breathe – It may sound obvious but it is easy to forget to do this! My son Pie (a trained baritone) tells me “don’t bother with that ‘in-through-the-nose’ b*%%@cks Mum – get the air in there.” So that is what I do. Breathe deeply and loudly, preferably outside, and most preferably right in the middle of the school field! If things get tough it’s a good time to remember that all important school perimeter survey. Walk it briskly with a note pad and use the time to breathe deeply.
  2. Ask yourself “What would Jean Luc Picard do?” Of course, you will most likely have someone else who is your fictional mentor. You need someone that you admire, whose character you know well, who is the type of leader you aspire to be, and who reminds you how far you have come. JLP ticks all those boxes for me.
  3. Complete a Risk Assessment – Keeping a blank Risk Assessment in your toolkit sounds weird I know but if you take a moment to think through the worst case scenarios of any problems, and then list what you can do to minimise the risks it reminds you that you do, actually, know what you are doing and are more than capable of prioritising the tasks to get you to where you want to be. Also, the associated hazards don’t come as a surprise if they do materialise while you are sorting it all out. After you’ve had some fun considering the dramatic consequences of inaction, write a to-do list, delegate half of it to colleagues and family (by which I mean the Christmas stuff obviously – don’t delegate the capital bidding to your 12 year old) and then make a start on working your way through it one step at a time.
  4. Sleep – When you’re overloaded, pulling an all-nighter in an effort to catch up is not the answer. I know that I become stressed very quickly when I’m tired and then I’m no use to anyone. Contrary to your family’s view, the universe will not end if the Christmas Tree doesn’t go up until the weekend!
  5. Lie low – In my place of work, any interaction with the Boss involves more work for me. Either be ready to use the ‘N’ word or avoid them (as much as you can!). It’ll all wait until the New Year.
  6. Enjoy – Advent is a wonderful time year. Everyone is excited, festive and looking forward to the holiday. You must do the same. The work tasks will get done, you will manage to buy presents for everyone and the turkey will be moist. My best Christmas dinner production was when I completely mucked up the timings and the turkey came out of the oven at 11am – goes to show that a good rest is the answer after all!

It isn’t easy holding a family and a workplace together at this time of year but, remember the most important thing…it’s fun!

You’ve got this.

Anna x

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