Thursday, 24 July 2008

Don't worry baby

I fought the urge to use the obvious title to this post... School is, indeed, out though. And what a long, dragging summer term that turned out to be. It felt like it would never end, and I worked right up to the final day (no cop-out videos in my classroom). But, I know better than to moan about my job as I settle into a 6 week holiday. Needless to say as term petered out laziness ensued and a week has appeared between posts.

The school holidays are always an ironic time for the health conscious. I have had enough experience myself, and as many conversations with colleagues, to concur with the idea that no sooner than the holidays start and you're ill. For most people this involves succumbing to the inevitable cold, and is grounded in the theory that during term time we are somehow running on adrenalin, which in turn fights a 24/7 battle against the army of germs that brew up in the hot overpopulated environment of the classroom. On any given winters day, when I have 32 little monsters sat in my room and the school heating is on full blast (there are 2 settings: ON or OFF) the atmosphere is positively tropical. I'm surprised (with my record for illness) I haven't had malaria yet.

On the penultimate day of school I bumped into the Head in the corridor. We did the obligatory "how are you?" conversation (I am still not at ease with her viewpoint on my UC) and then she said "well now term's over, you'll be able to get a break from the stress". And so she raised an interesting point.

Stress, without doubt, has a massive role in the life of the UC sufferer. My first hospitalisation with a flare-up was preceeded by trying to get 60 wonderfully motivated students (!) to complete their coursework on time and to the best of their ability. I can't say for sure that this was the crucial factor, but it definately didn't help matters. In fact in the early years of my teaching life I worked in a very difficult school for 3 years (failed ofsted, special measures, kids from a socio-economically deprived area), and every day was commenced with a 3 floor sprint from my classroom to the staff toilet - at the time I had never heard of UC, but in retrospect I think this may have been a sign of things to come (in sooo many ways...). Since those dark days, and as I have become much more informed and wise about my own condition I have actively sought to reduce stress in my life. Teaching is stressful. So I am a classroom teacher (in a much easier school). No more, no less. The remuneration for taking further resposibilities is not adequately reflective of the extra stress that would be taken on. I see my boss every day, and he constantly walks the precipice between sanity and breakdown. My job is stressful - but so is everybody else's. And to return to the Heads point - is it actually possible to avoid stress even when you are not at work? Some examples:
  • I have been helping some good friends sort out their house before moving to another part of the country. Every inch of this process has caused them stress: sorting through years of accumulated things (what to keep? What to let go?); renting out your home; finding a new suitable home; decorating; actually physically moving...
  • One of my best friends has been trying to fan the embers of his relationship, which has become long distance, meaning weekends of travelling or constant phonecalls...
  • My other best friend is in Jordan with work while his pregnant girlfriend is at home in the UK...
  • My neighbours have just had a premature baby...
  • 6 week summer holiday, 2 kids to entertain!
  • Years ago, before I was a teacher, we never had enough money for anything - but were determined not to go into debt, so each and every day was about scraping by. And now there are thousands of people in that situation...

These are just things off the top of my head. There are too numerous a number of things that make life stressful. And each person has a different factor that causes them more stress. I have ALWAYS had the physiology that means that stress manifests itself straight in my digestive system. Oh yes, I can remember many a pre-job interview rush for the toilet...

So, what's the answer? Well, I can only say that, for me, talking is the key. As hard as it has been sometimes to admit I'm suffering from stress, getting yourself to tell somebody else is vital to dealing with it yourself. Most stressful situations can't be avoided, I find you have to take them on with honesty to yourself and others.

Here's a final thought: If I feel that the UC is starting to flare-up I start to worry about it... anxiety goes straight to my guts... stress is a recognised trigger for UC... so I worry that the UC is flaring and I worry because I'm worried about it... Now, that is stress that's hard to manage.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Even though I have been looking out for your posts, you are entitled to chill out you know! Don't ever feel guilty about that. On the subject of stress. My brother used to teach languages at an Independent school. Over the years hypertension set in and even tablets weren't really keeping the blood pressure down. He decided to change his job and he now teaches English as a foreign language. He is really happy now with less stress and normal blood pressure. A change of career in some way could do you good if you could afford it. You are probably the bread winner in your home and in my brother's case, his wife is a Headmistress so he could afford to take a risk. I went through a bad spell of stress, anxiety and depression myself when my son was first diagnosed with UC. I went to see someone who practices in NLP and now I feel quite calm and don't worry so much. I'm still concerned for my son but NLP has helped me to get on with my life. Like you mentioned, you can never get away from stress but I would definitely recommend a session or two with NLP. If you want any more info just ask me. In the meantime, try to relax and enjoy your break from work.

Rich said...

Hi Maria
I think my posts may make me sound more stressed than I actually am. These days i have a pretty healthy outlook on life and UC - and the blog has helped that. Being able to offload all those crazy thoughts...

Whats NLP?

rich

Rich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maria said...

Rich, I wasn't reading into how high or low your stress levels are but I'm glad all is well. I am one of those people who likes to try to help if I can, no matter how small or large the problem is. It sounds to me like you are just a busy person with lots of family and friends, and like me, you try to help whoever you can and however you can.

NLP stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. You may have heard of Paul McKenna who teaches/practices NLP through training and hypnotism. NLP is about how the mind works. We have weakneses of character, fears, phobias or lack of confidence, anxiety, stress and depression but we can change to be the person we want to be through NLP. It's to do with emotions of positive and negative thoughts where changes can be made through eliminating the negatives. NLP is a highly effective method of making important changes in people. I found it amazing. During my consultation I told my friend my worries, fears, problems etc. I then closed my eyes and he talked me through a load of things painting pictures in my head. I wasn't hypnotised, but I think it is a form of hypnosis. I didn't fall asleep or go into a trance of anything like that, I remembered everything and I still think it's quite incredible how it works.