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It's official, teachers must relax over Christmas!

A new study has found that shunning work over the festive period is critical to avoid exhaustion.

Teachers will be looking forward to a well-earned rest this Christmas. But it can be tough to switch off from – and avoid catching up on – work. It might be good for you to shun your marking and instead plan for a proper break this year, though. Why? Well, for a start, research says you should.

A study of 90 teachers from across the UK by academics at City University, London, has found it’s critical for teachers stop working in the holidays to avoid burnout and exhaustion. Time off allows teachers to “restore their emotional energy,” the report states.

The research asked teachers to complete a survey at the end of eight weeks – capturing their feelings before, during and after the Christmas break in 2013. It found that teachers who continued to worry about work during their holidays were less likely to recover from the demands of the term, while those who satisfied their basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy and feeling connected to others) improved their mental health.

A senior lecturer in organisational psychology at City University, Dr Paul Flaxman, said: “Our work shows that breaks for teachers, especially at times like half-term and Christmas, are incredibly important ... Making sure that teachers have regular opportunities to recover from the considerable demands of the job will help to prevent burnout.”

The report also made recommendations for reducing stress levels, including practising mindfulness.

But there’s a huge gap between knowing you should take a break, and implementing that practically.

Even a few days can help

Stress piles up, just like the papers you need to grade seem to. Work breaks are crucial to re-setting the physiological response to stress, and may even have lasting effects on health and wellness. Dutch researchers investigating the effects of vacationing have seen that short vacations (4-5 days) can have just as positive effects on health and wellbeing as longer vacations (9 days).

Disable your email and play games instead

It is all about family time, making sure that you disable the email function on your phone, play board games, watch rubbish TV and eat far too much chocolate.

Distract yourself by getting active

It’s an obvious one but physical exercise is important. As well as being good for your waistline it helps you relax. Lots of teachers over the holidays also go for a massage and another good form of relaxation is laughter.

Some teachers find it really hard to relax, so the key is distraction. Find a way to distract your mind, by reading a book for example. Do anything to turn your thoughts away from school.

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