Posted on Aug 5th, 2006

In my days at the Stress Management Centre in Harley Street it never ceased to amaze me that so many clients didn’t see there every day lives as particularly stressful.

Many saw stress in terms of an event like death of a loved one, divorce, becoming unemployed and so forth. The reality is the modern world is very stressful and although our nervous systems are extremely well adapted to bouts of stress, as exhibited in a fight or flight situation, we are less able to rid ourselves of the slow build up of stress which we take on board daily.

How many of us succumb to colds and flu whilst on holiday or are just beginning to feel the benefit of the holiday when its time to return? The flu comes because we let our guard down too quickly whilst on holiday and because our immune system has been damaged by cortisol, one of the Adrenal’s hormones, the other scenario being that it takes 2 weeks to slowly unwind to a more normal situation. In other words if we are stressed internally no amount of lying on the beach will relax us internally.

Daily Strategies

To avoid a build up of stress here are some simple but effective strategies which will help you lose more than you are taking in. 1. A long hot soak….dim lights…a bit of gentle music…some aromatherapy scents…..candles even… phone calls….

2. Sauna: A marvellous detox on the one hand and a great relaxer on the other. The two are not exactly unconnected. Once a week would be good, 2 or 3 times a week would be ideal.

3. Massage: Ideally by a professional, but even your partner could give you a worth while massage. You giving massage to your partner or your children would be equally useful as a relaxant and to them too of course.

4. A 20/30 minute gentle walk, preferably in a park, countryside or woods but if none are available, round some pleasant town area, especially one which has lovely house, trees, shrubs, flowers etc. During this walk you can let your mind wander freely or maybe before that you can tell your boss, colleague, partner what you think of them, and then let your mind run free (gently). Take some deep breaths while you walk, hold for 8 and release slowly….takes in more oxygen and rids the body of Carbon Dioxide. (Also good just before you go into that difficult class or interview.)

5. Exercise is a great way to relax and release pent up tension and energy.

You will easily be able to see ways of combining several of these in one session. That would probably be your main session of the week, the hot soaks and/or gentle walks could be filler sessions between those main sessions.

6. And finally, promise your self a weekly treat and sick to it. It might be cinema, a good meal (or both), a night in with your feet up, a glass of red in one hand and those chocolates in the other, with the family off hang gliding, white water rafting or abseiling down the face of the town’s tallest building, who cares, just relax.

But one thing should never be underestimated, the power of stress. It can kill and it does make us ill. This piece is too short to give you chapter and verse on how it harms us but we have all the evidence we need to know that it does. We also know it can cause up to 40% permanent damage in the Hippocampus because of high amounts of glucocorticoid hormones in the blood…this not only impairs memory it makes new learning more difficult. The Hippocampus is involved in the laying down of new memories along with the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Damaged hippocampus means fewer new memories laid down, destroyed hippocampus means no new memories ever.

This piece is too short to go into much detail but safe to say, stress affects our ability to think, our relationships and of course our work. It is so important for our students that we learn to relax because they much prefer a happy, relaxed teacher with a reasonable lesson plan than a stressed, irritable teacher with a world beating lesson plan.

But not only do your students deserve to have a happy relaxed you, your family and friends deserve it too, but above all YOU deserve to BE a happy, relaxed you.

Final point, I used to a recommend a CD called the Study Relaxer for students in Harley Street. If you require a quick fix then this is it. Although it’s taken from the student angle of sitting exams, 97% of it is relevant to you as teachers. You can download it from: And I really will get down to making a relaxation CD just for teachers, hopefully by April.

Brian Hill

Brian Hill formerly of the Stress Mangement Centre Harley Street and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Accelerated Learning. Currently lecturing in the Far East and conducting business through his educational website:

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