Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Maintaining your equilibrium

Last year I moved to a school that serves an area of real deprivation. Some of the students are dealing with serious family problems and I worry deeply for them - sometimes too much - though I try not to let it show. By the end of the year I had problems sleeping and felt emotionally drained. I love the school but how do I retain my own sanity this year?

School and college leaders often choose their profession because they have a real desire to make a difference but this can make it a highly emotional, stressful job. 'Emotional resilience' is a term sometimes used to describe the ability to carry on day in and day out in the midst of troubling and stressful situations. Here are some coping strategies to try:

  • Develop a sense of realism about what is and is not possible. Celebrate the small gains and achievements.

  • Accept what is in your sphere of influence and which things you have no control over. Recognise what loads you are carrying for other people and suggest they take back some of the burden.

  • Recognise when, as a leader, it is okay to show how you feel about situations, but in a professional manner. Showing your human side is not a sign of failure or weakness.

  • Don't be pressured into decisions. Give yourself time to think.

  • Have a confidante - a mentor either at the school or elsewhere - to act as a sounding board.

  • Build breaks into your working day. A short walk or quiet time for reflection can do wonders.

  • Most of all, look after your own health and wellbeing. Remember that physical exercise does wonders for your equilibrium.

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