Staff Wellbeing Tips – The Importance of Rest and Recovery Over Christmas

Senior Mental Health & Wellbeing Consultant - Liz Robson-Kelly | Worth-it

Liz Robson-Kelly
Managing Director
Co-Author

Development and Relationships Officer - Elliot Foster | Worth-it

Elliot Foster
Development and Relationships Officer
Co-Author

The Designated Mental Health Lead’s main priority is supporting pupil mental health and wellbeing. The most effective way of supporting pupil mental health and wellbeing is through championing and leading a whole school approach. Supporting staff wellbeing is an essential component of any whole school approach.

Sharing Staff Wellbeing Tips for Christmas

The focus of this article is to provide Mental Health Leads with shareable wellbeing tips for themselves and colleagues. We hope that sharing these Christmas wellbeing ideas will promote school staff wellbeing through encouraging the essential rest and recuperation required to reduce stress and aid recovery.

Why is staff wellbeing so important?

Over the last decade, stress levels amongst those working in education have become an increasing cause for concern. Even though both the awareness of mental health and the volume of support for staff wellbeing available to those in need has increased, levels of stress amongst those working in education has continued to increase. 

In a joint report between Education Support and YouGov released last year, 72% of teachers and 84% of senior leaders reported being stressed at least once over the last year. The proportion of those working in education feeling stressed and/or experiencing mental health issues has increased every year since these reports began in 2017. The unprecedented nature of the demands faced during 2020 have only added to pre-existing issues.

One major source cited for this worrying trend is the increasing number of hours individuals in education spend working rather than relaxing. Last year, 33% of teachers and 65% of senior leaders worked more than 51 hours per week. Although it may feel necessary to work this many hours in order to keep up with the seemingly ever-increasing workload, and the demands 2020 has brought, evidence shows that such an unhealthy work-life balance can severely impact both physical and mental wellbeing.  

Why is rest so important for wellbeing?

Working more, and relaxing less is dangerous to both your mental and physical wellbeing as it often creates a ‘vicious circle’. Think about it like this. The more hours worked, the more time that is required to fully recover. But unfortunately, working more hours also means that there is less time in the day for relaxation. This can often lead to individuals returning to work before they are fully refreshed, where they work again and end up needing even more relaxation time that they do not have.

74% of teachers surveyed felt unable to switch off and relax when they finally left work.

Teacher Wellbeing Index, 2019

If this ‘vicious circle’ occurs over an extended period of time, it can lead to fatigue, increased work strain and even decreased life satisfaction [1]. All of which can negatively impact both mental wellbeing and physical health. Encouraging staff to use school holidays such as Christmas provides a vital opportunity for rest and recuperation. Enabling school staff to make the most of these periods is an essential component of any staff wellbeing strategy. To do this, it is key that individuals understand how to best use this time to relax effectively.

To help with this, we’ve put together our 3 top tips for effectively relaxing and recovering and topping up levels of wellbeing over the well-earned Christmas break. Ensuring you maintain your wellbeing levels and build up a resource of wellbeing to see you into the new year and new term.

Following even just one of these tips will help you to recover more, meaning that you will be less stressed and more refreshed when you return to work in January [2] [3].

1. Make time for things that you enjoy

It may sound simple, but making time for things that you enjoy doing during the holiday period is a vital way to top up your own levels of wellbeing. Doing things you enjoy such as arranging to catch up with family, taking time to cook, watching some old Christmas films, wrapping presents, or going for walks in the fresh air provides several opportunities for mini wellbeing top-ups! All of these mini top-ups enable us to encourage the recovery required during school holidays.

These enjoyable activities lead to something called ‘positive affect’ and increase the volume of positive emotions that you feel. Every mini top-up is a micro-moment of positive affect that gradually builds up wellbeing levels and supports mental health. Evidence suggests that this is essential for buffering against adversity as well as reducing levels of stress [4].

2. Allow time to rest and recover

Having said this, make sure you take some time to rest. This may seem obvious and your body may be telling you to have a rest. If you are feeling tired and fatigued it is a sign you need to rest and recuperate, we often ignore this sign and keep pushing on.

There is a danger of trying to pack everything into the school holidays that you don’t time to do during term time. But this can mean that you miss out on the well earned and needed rest and recovery time. Even though you may feel like you don’t want to waste your holiday in bed, having a few lie-ins will allow your body and mind more time to recover. Resting your brain and body is essential for wellbeing.

By doing this, you’ll be less tired, more likely to enjoy the stuff that you should be enjoying and be fully recovered for when you return to school.

3. See people from outside of school

Although many of your closest friends may also be your colleagues, try and increase the amount of time that you spend, even if that is virtually, with people that you wouldn’t see at school. If you spend time with people from work outside of work it can be very easy to ‘talk shop’ and keep going over work-related matters without getting the mental break required to fully recover.

Arranging to catch up with friends and family will mean that you will see people that you haven’t seen in a long time. This is another strategy for topping up your wellbeing by building relationships and positive commendations. Hopefully, you will be less likely to talk about your work-life. This is key, as mentally ‘detaching’ yourself from work for increased periods triggers recovery mechanisms and allows strain and negative mood that may have developed to dissipate [3]

Putting wellbeing tips into action – Staff Wellbeing Activity

Activity – Based on the tips above we have devised this Christmas Wellbeing Activity

In the staff room or staff meeting, share these ideas for topping up levels of wellbeing that can be done over Christmas. Try this simple activity, this could be part of an end of term staff meeting. The aim is to set the intention to encourage colleagues (and yourself) to boost essential wellbeing levels over Christmas.

Christmas Wellbeing Activity Questions

  • What are the things you enjoy doing during Christmas?
  • What opportunities can you identify that provide a chance to rest and recover?
  • Who can you arrange to see (virtually if necessary) that you would like to make the time to connect with over Christmas?

Make a list of 1- 3 things for each question.

Next, make a commitment to achieve these during the Christmas holidays. Further questions to help raise levels of commitment include:

  • How many times will to aim to do those things?
  • Who can support you with this challenge?
  • Would it help you to buddy up with someone to keep you on track?

Finally provide a way to share feedback on how this went at the start of term. Remember to celebrate successes and share experiences of your enjoyable wellbeing activities. This helps re-experience the feelings of ‘positive affect’ providing further mini wellbeing top-ups!

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

We hope these tips will be helpful for you over your well-earned Christmas break and allow you to return to work fully recovered.

Everyone at Worth-it would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the continuous support during 2020, and to send you all our best wishes for Christmas and the New Year ahead.

Let us know your thoughts and if you’ve got any tips of your own share them in the comments below!

[1] D. S. Carlson, K. M. Kacmar and L. J. Williams, “Construction and initial validation of a multidimensional measure of work-family conflict,” Journal of Vocational behavior, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 249-276, 2000.

[2] S. Sonnentag and C. Fritz, “The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work,” Journal of occupational health psychology, vol. 12, no. 3, p. 204, 2007.

[3] S. Sonnentag and C. Fritz, “Recovery from job stress: The stressor‚Äźdetachment model as an integrative framework,” Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 36, no. S1, pp. S72-S103, 2015. 

[4] B. L. Fredrickson and T. Joiner, “Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being.,” Psychological science, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 172-175, 2002. 

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