A consistent finding in the principal health and wellbeing reports is that large workloads not only prevents school leaders from spending more time on their key role of supporting teaching and learning staff but takes a significant toll on their mental and physical health.
Indeed, the provision of remote learning has led to digital exhaustion for many educators and parents who have had to juggle home and work life, often under immense pressure.
Renowned performance coach, Dr Adam Fraser, has been helping school leaders get back on top of their health and wellbeing through the successful Flourish Movement.
He says that educators who are still feeling anxious and stressed in these challenging times must be mindful to periodically “recharge their batteries” and not lose track of what is important.
“Every night we put our phones on charge. We should be doing the same thing with ourselves so we are better prepared to face the challenges of the following day,” Dr Fraser told The Educator.
“Things that help us recharge are: deep relaxation, physical exercise, being in nature, being still, having a quality interaction with someone, laughing, being playful…the list goes on”.
When it comes to educators working effectively, and calmly, from home, Dr Fraser says these eight practices are vital.
- Work in 50-minute chunks
Recent research shows that the brain can really only concentrate and be productive for about 50 minutes in a long stretch, so what you want to do is work really hard and be very planned about what you want to achieve in that 50-minutes, completely immerse yourself in it and then have a break.
- Avoid back-to-back virtual meetings
Microsoft conducted some research that looked at people’s brains when they were going from back-to-back virtual meetings. Specifically, they had people do four back-to-back virtual meetings. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) they mapped people‘s brain activity. What they found is that as people went from one virtual meeting to the next, the stress in the brain increased and accumulated on itself to the point whereby the time the fourth meeting happened, their brain had almost switched off. They then trialled an intervention group where for five minutes in between meetings they did a mindfulness activity like listening to a relaxation app on their phone where they slowed their breathing and focused their mind on only one thing. What this experiment showed is that people‘s stress levels over those four meetings actually went down due to the five minute relaxation in between the meetings. They also measured the brain’s capacity to process data and what it showed is that the brains of people who didn’t have breaks dramatically reduced their capacity to process information whereas the groups that did have the five-minute break demonstrated a high capacity to process information.
- Ensure that you get outside and look at things in 3D
Studies show that when the brain is looking at a screen it takes twice the amount of energy for it to process what it is seeing than it does 3D. This is why we are all getting tired when working virtually. Twice a day, we should go outside and get some sunshine, but most importantly look at things that are around us. Trees, leaves, mountains, and so on; just take in all the objects around you that are in three dimensions as it will help reduce how stressed your brain is and calm it down.
- Get dressed for work
When we work from home we tend to stay in our pyjamas or work in some really casual clothes. Our research shows that people are more effective and productive when they actually wear their work clothes. This doesn’t mean you have to put on the power suit, but just something a bit more formal because it’ll send a signal to your brain that you’re at work. Surprisingly, it will increase your productivity and focus, too. Also, at the end of the day when you get dressed back into your casual clothes it helps you shift from work mode back into home mode.
- Make sure you move a lot during the day
Going for a walk or doing some sort of activity in your day will help reduce the cortisol and adrenaline levels in your brain. Because of what’s happening in education right now people feel threatened and fearful, and when that occurs the cortisol and adrenaline levels in our brain spike. But these things impair our ability to think clearly make good decisions, and also be tolerant and kind to other people. So, make sure you’ve been active to get rid of those aggressive stress producing chemicals in your brain.
- Have a dedicated workspace
If possible, make sure you work in a separate room that is away from the common living areas. This allows you to shut off work at the end of the day and not see it. If you’re not lucky enough to have a separate space in your working on your kitchen table make sure at the end of the day you pack up all your work and put it away from line of sight because if it’s in Eyeline you’ll be tempted to go back to work and work longer hours. Which increases your stress levels and reduces your ability to connect with people in your personal life.
- Have clear work hours
When we work from home, we can get slack about when working and when we are in personal time. The result of this is we tend to work all the time or think about work even when we’re not working. Ensure that you set up very clear times in which you are going to do work. Be very clear about when you clock on and when you clock off.
- Ensure you insert a third space at the end of the day
When you’re working from home the temptation to keep working is incredibly high as well as we tend to stay in a work mindset which has a negative impact on our family life. When you finish work at the end of the day insert some sort of activity that relaxes you and helps you shift into a, more present mindset that will suit your home. This can range from going for a walk, engaging in some sort of hobby, inserting a fake commute where you go for a drive, doing some sort of relaxation or meditation, even cooking dinner with music on. It just has to be some activity that you find relaxing and helps you shift into a mindset that suits your home much more.