Being a head teacher is by far one of the most stressful roles that an individual can have. The burden of having to meet the needs of so many, means that often the demands that are made upon you, would seem to suggest that you have to adopt the qualities of a super hero.
As well as Herculean amounts of inner strength to survive the challenges of a ‘normal’ day [if there is such a thing!] , let alone a week, a term or a year. Left unquestioned, this approach and attitude to the role can only lead to increased amounts of stress and ultimately burn out.
If you want to avoid the ‘crash and burn’ syndrome then read these three mistakes that head teaches make when dealing with stress and how to avoid them.
Mistake # 1: Believing that you are a super hero!
You are not! You are ‘only human’. You are allowed to feel emotions the same as everyone else. You are allowed to feel tired and exhausted, just like everyone else. You are allowed to feel confused and anxious at times just like everyone else!
The problem is too many head teachers feel that because of the status afforded to them by their position they now cannot admit these feelings to themselves.
A mistake … why? Because when you stop connecting with what you are really feeling and experiencing on a day- to- day basis, you lose your ability to really know and understand yourself. In times of challenge and stress, this can lead to flawed decision making, as you have unwittingly weakened your ability to make decisions that are fully aligned with who you are and what you believe in.
Solution: Learn to understand your emotions and what they are telling you in any given situation. Understand that your emotions are clues as to what is going on inside of you and that they also [for good and bad] determine how you behave under stress.
Mistake #2: Believing that the ‘show’ must go on
All head teachers know and accept the fact that every day they go to school in order to give the best performance of their lives. The school is their stage, staff, pupils, parents and governors all have their role to play, but it is ultimately the head teacher who directs the action and who takes on the lead role.
Even when the head teacher has a roaring temperature, is losing their voice and has to pop an aspirin every other hour, he or she still struggles in, believing the show must go on!
A mistake … why? Because when our immune systems weaken and we ignore the signs, we increase the risk of even more serious illness and slower rates of recovery.
Solution: STOP! As simple as that, STOP! Allow your body time to rest and recover.
Mistake # 3: Not paying attention to what is happening ‘back stage’
Continuing with the stage metaphor, many head teachers make the mistake of paying too much attention to their own performance front stage and ignoring what is happening ‘back stage’.
On your front stage, you show all the qualities that need to be on constant display for others to believe in you and follow your lead. Backstage is where you deposit your fears, your worries, your confusion and self doubt.
A mistake … why? Because if your backstage is left unattended to, it will eventually ‘leak’ out onto your ‘front stage’ and weaken both your own self- perception and also how others see you.
Solution: Work on your back stage! Find ways to address your worries, self doubt, fear and concerns. Doing so will decrease your stress levels and make you a stronger, confident, more resilient leader.
Changing the Narrative…
When I look back on my years as a Head Teacher and now with the work that I do with school leaders, I realise just how easy it is for school leaders to accept tiredness, emotional overload and irritability as the norm.
For me, the realisation came about, after a particularly challenging encounter with a parent. I had become so used to numbing out my emotions and wearing my ‘super-head’ cloak, that when my emotions did finally catch up with me, I was at a loss as to what to do.
All I could do was sit in my car and cry and cry and cry! It was only when this happened and after some deep soul searching, that I realised why I had got to this place and what had been missing from my life as a Head teacher … Support!
I’m not talking about the type of support Head teachers get from school advisors, governors or fellow colleagues. It was a different type of support that I realised had been missing.
I needed support that was confidential and non-judgemental. I needed a space where just for a while, I could take off my cloak and be me. A space where I could show my vulnerabilities and be supported to make sense of my own emotions in relation to the demands of the role.
Sadly, some 15 years later, there is still a woeful lack of ‘proper’ support for those who are at the helm. As a result, there are many Heads for whom emotional overload is a still hallmark of the role.
It’s for this reason, why I now offer FREE “Coaching for the Soul” Calls to provide school leaders with a safe, non-judgemental space to talk through the challenges of the role.
This call offers a confidential space where leaders can:
– Talk through the challenges they’re facing and find solutions
– Receive support and encouragement in their current situation
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
– Gain clarity around their thoughts and plan a way forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!