School Business Leadership

Ask Anna – Tips to reduce stress?

Dear Anna, I am finding my role as a School Business Manager very challenging at the moment for a variety of reasons. Could you give me some tips to reduce stress please? Sally.

Dear Sally,

I’ve actually delayed answering this question for a few weeks so that when I composed an answer for you I would be slap-bang at the start of the most stressful week of my job and can genuinely tell you what helps me, rather than just roll out perceived wisdom.

We all have times like this. A time when we feel like our back is against the wall; when everything is about to go wrong (in our heads); when we aren’t sleeping or eating properly; when we struggle to concentrate on anything anyone else is saying. Barry knows when I’m stressed because I keep saying “Sorry can you say that again?” (to which he responds “I SAID, WOULD YOU LIKE A CUP OF TEA?”)

Here is how I cope.

  1. Find ways to remind yourself that you will come out the other side of this. Screensavers, fridge magnets, notes to yourself in your notebook (my favourite is at the bottom of this post but please don’t look if you are of sensitive disposition). Motivational quotes really help me at particularly busy times, especially “You’ve got this, Anna.”
  2. Look after you. Be gentle with yourself and the choices you make. Get lots of sleep and take time for you. I made the mistake of joining work’s “fat club” at the beginning of September and, as I’m now averaging out the whole office’s loss with my weight gain, I’ve resolved to not weigh myself again until after audit week!
  3. Distract yourself with other things. I find writing helps enormously but I have also had success with sewing, jigsaws, baking and gardening. I also find ironing weirdly calming. I put a few drops of essential oil in the iron water and my brain completely switches off as I iron my tea towel collection. (Sad, I know.)
  4. Plan ahead. Having to polish shoes, iron a shirt, pack a bag in the morning during audit week is not going to make for a good start to the day. Organise the heck out of everything until the stress has passed.
  5. Plan something that you will look forward to during the busy week, it will then fly by. Barry is taking me out for a meal on Friday (he doesn’t know it yet but I’m really looking forward to it and I don’t care that Sale are playing Gloucester.)
  6. Drink a lot of your favourite beverage. I like morning coffee, afternoon tea and evening gin and tonic. Routines help you work through the time. I’m not advocating year round over indulgence but just for this week will be fine.
  7. Try not to do too much of anything else. I am particularly bad at this. At least when the auditor is physically there, everyone can see you are busy.

Of course, if your stress is not of the short term “audit pressure” variety and involves longer term issues, you will also need to find ways of addressing the issues themselves, but that is for another post.

You’ve got this Sally.


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