Take yourself from ‘distress’ to ‘de-stress’ during stress awareness month

Take yourself from ‘distress’ to ‘de-stress’ during stress awareness month

Stress. n. “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

A definition that almost certainly resonates with many – particularly during this unprecedented period of dealing with the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
Even without a global health crisis to contend with, most of us at some point are likely to have found ourselves in a situation where we feel stressed.

Stress can be debilitating, and can cause and/or aggravate health problems. And since stress is a normal part of human life - nobody is immune to it - it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we recognise the signs ahead of the times when stress is going to rear its ugly head. The problem can be that sometimes we don’t even see it in ourselves if we are inwardly (or ‘blindly’) stressed.

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992 and aims to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for this modern mental epidemic. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year that “they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.” That is a worrying statistic, particularly as we are in an industry where the wellbeing of the children in our care is paramount.

The Stress Management Society, which founded Stress Awareness Month, has many resources and ideas to help you during times of stress, including how to understand stress itself and different coping mechanisms you can use.

You can even take a stress test here!

Here are our top tips for alleviating stress – you could try discussing these in your next team meeting. You may be surprised how many people actually do some of these things already!

Practice meditation

One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to learn how to silence the mind. Meditation is one of the most popular methods of achieving this quiet.
Mindworks is a blog for meditation novices and has some great tips which you can share with your colleagues.


A proven way to battle the debilitating effects of stress is to exercise. Whether you’re a jogger, cyclist, or just like to take long walks, be sure to get some fresh air and exercise into your daily routine. You may spend a lot of time cooped up indoors, either at work during the day or at home during the evening. But, going outside to get some fresh air can work wonders for relaxing you. Try taking a short walk around the block on your lunch break, or spending time in green spaces when you come back from work.

Focus on your breathing

Taking just a few minutes out of your day to focus on deep breathing can help you feel calmer and more relaxed. Find somewhere you can sit quietly without being disturbed, then focus on breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. See if you can make each inhale and exhale last for a count of 4 seconds, and adjust the count until you feel at your most comfortable.

Listen to music

Music feeds our mood and can affect our emotions, so listening to a few of our favourite tracks can make us instantly feel much better. If you feel like getting up and dancing around the room whilst listening to music, indulge yourself. If you’d prefer to sit and close your eyes whilst you listen on your headphones, that’s okay too! Do whatever works best for you.

Discover your creative side

Taking part in an activity which requires you to be creative can help you instantly de-stress. Try writing in a journal, doing an adult colouring book, learning an instrument, drawing or baking. Experiment with whatever feeds your creativity, and enjoy the process rather than focusing too much on what the outcome will be.

Have a technology detox

Although designed to destress, just the mention of those words can have the ability to make some people even more stressed than they already were! Checking social media is often the first thing we do when we wake, and the last thing we do before we go to bed. However, finding out what’s happening in everyone else’s life often conflicts with our own wellbeing; leaving us under constant pressure to check newsfeeds and scroll through new photos. Take a step back from your phone and make sure the last hour before bed is technology-free – this will help you unwind and get to sleep much quicker.

"One of the most effective ways to deal with stress is to learn how to silence the mind."

Top tips for learners!

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is essential – make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours a night and if you’re feeling tired, you could even think about squeezing in a short nap if you’re at home! Making sure that you get enough sleep will set you up for the day and give you more energy to put into your studies; feeling energised will only make you feel happier and healthier.

Take a bath

Bathing is one of the most relaxing things you can do: chuck in a bath bomb, put on some music and let the hot water take away your stresses. You’ll feel 100 times better when you get out. Listening to music at the same time as having a bath releases endorphins in your body (hormones that make you happy), so what could be more de-stressing!

Drink water

Staying hydrated is essential. If you haven’t been drinking enough, you’ll feel groggy and tired; leaving you unable to study when you need to. It’s recommended that you drink at least 8 glasses of liquid day. Water, tea, coffee and fruit juice all count towards your fluid intake.

Make a study schedule

If you can plan your time down on paper you’ll be able to see exactly when you do and don’t have time to study, and where you can get some extra revision in. Planning how much you have to do and knowing how long you have to do it will make you feel a lot better.

Dyslexia Awareness Week

Dyslexia Awareness Week

Richard Branson is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs: his Virgin brand operates over 60 companies in 35 countries; he has written 8 books and has over 41 million followers on social networks, and his net worth in 2019 was reported at just over £4 billion. That’s a pretty successful life in anyone’s book!

Yet Branson struggled in school and dropped out at 16 saying “my teachers thought I was lazy and dumb, and I couldn’t keep up or fit in - people just assumed that I was not bright when it came to academic things.”

It turns out that Richard Branson has dyslexia, which was little understood when he was at school and instead of receiving help and support, he says it was “treated as a handicap”.

Nowadays, much more is known about this complex, neurodiverse condition and many people now recognise that dyslexic people have many strengths. So, from 7–13 October, the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) is promoting Dyslexia Awareness Week to encourage everyone to empower people with dyslexia so that their gifts can be recognised, and they can fulfil their true potential. More than 10% of the UK population has dyslexia, yet often their needs are not being met, opportunities are being missed and we are not maximising the potential and abilities these people have, to the detriment of us all.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is not an illness. It is a difference in the way that people’s brains work and a difference in how people learn and process information through their senses. It primarily affects a person’s reading and writing skills although not exclusively. For example, dyslexic people may have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, especially linking letters to phonics, which can lead to problems with literacy. However, many dyslexic people display positive strengths in terms of their reasoning, visual processing skills and creativity.

Dyslexia does not affect a person’s IQ or intelligence, although because there is usually a great emphasis on reading and writing in schools, many dyslexic people can feel inadequate due to having a lower reading age than would normally be expected. Recognising that a child has dyslexia, and putting strategies in place to help them, is therefore vital to avoid self-esteem problems and to build on the strengths that the child does have.

Speech and language difficulties and dyslexia

Speech and language difficulties in early years have been linked to later childhood literacy problems through numerous studies, but there is much that can be done to help children in the early years develop their language skills if problems are identified early enough. A diagnosis of dyslexia can only be given after a diagnostic assessment, but these are not usually given until the child is around 7 years old and already at school. There are other causes of speech and language problems too, so the emphasis needs to be on identifying problems early (whatever the underlying cause) to allow interventions as soon as possible.

Signs of dyslexia in the early years

The BDA has listed several indicators which may suggest that a child has a Specific Learning Difficulty such as dyslexia. One of the problems of identifying them in early years settings, however, is that many young children will display the same behaviours and make the same mistakes, so it can be difficult to differentiate between dyslexia and differences in developmental timing. The BDA suggest that parents and early years staff should look out for “the severity of the behaviour and the length of time it persists” as this information can give vital clues leading to a diagnosis of dyslexia.

According to the BDA, indicators for dyslexia in young children are:

  • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes
  • Difficulty paying attention, sitting still, listening to stories
  • Likes listening to stories but shows no interest in letters or words
  • Difficulty learning to sing or recite the alphabet
  • Slow speech development
  • Muddles words e.g. cubumber, flutterby
  • Difficulty keeping simple rhythm
  • Finds it hard to carry out two or more instructions at one time, but is better if tasks are broken down
  • Forgets names
  • Poor auditory discrimination
  • Difficulty cutting, sticking and crayoning in comparison with their peer group
  • Difficulty in dressing, e.g. finds shoelaces and buttons difficult
  • Difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball
  • Often trips, bumps into things, and falls over
  • Difficulty hopping or skipping
  • Obvious ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days for no apparent reason

What to do during Dyslexia Awareness Week

The aim of the week is to empower people with dyslexia, which can only be done if there is wider understanding and knowledge about dyslexia, and the myths surrounding it are challenged.

The BDA are asking nurseries, educational establishments and workplaces to spare some time to hold an awareness session, ideally facilitated by a SENCO or other suitable professional, including input from dyslexic people themselves. Obviously in an early years setting, the children will be largely unaware and undiagnosed but the aim is really to advance the knowledge of staff about the condition, and what can be done to help support children. There are lots of resources, videos and information on the BDA website: bdadyslexia.org.uk which are free to access to help you.

The BDA also run awards for dyslexia-friendly organisations helping to support people with neurodiverse conditions. The award, Literacy Leap, is aimed at early years settings, focusing on early identification and supporting children who may be at risk of dyslexia or other speech and language disorders with early interventions.

What you can do to help children
There are numerous interventions that can help children with speech and learning or information processing issues, including:

  • online and electronic language development apps
  • breaking words down into small syllables, prefixes and suffixes
  • reading together
  • adopting a multi-sensory approach to learning
  • taking the pressure off by understanding that everyone is different
  • awareness of visual issues such as fonts, colours and visual stresses
  • teaching to the child’s strengths

The important thing is to recognise that everyone is different and interventions should be tailored accordingly.

Tragic death of 3-year-old blamed on Health & Safety lapses

Tragic death of 3-year-old blamed on Health & Safety lapses

A court has heard the case of Lydia Bishop, the three-year-old girl who tragically died on her first day at nursery after getting her neck caught in a rope on a slide.

Lydia was blue and not breathing by the time the 25-year-old nursery worker Sophee Redhead scooped her up from the outdoor play area at York College's nursery, Leeds crown court heard. She denies manslaughter by gross negligence and the alternative charge under health and safety legislation of failing to take "reasonable care" of the little girl. The Nursery have been accused of a ‘tick box mentality’ towards health and safety.

Ms Redhead, 25, denies manslaughter by gross negligence.

York College Nursery was primarily used by staff and students for the care of their children as well as some members of the public. The Nursery denies failing to ensure people not in their employment are not exposed to a risk to their health and safety.

Prosecuting QC, Robert Smith QC, said: "Lydia was left entirely to her own devices for what was to be a prolonged period. Some 20 minutes passed during which no member of staff, nor Sophee Redhead, did anything to investigate where Lydia was, what she was doing or what had become of her.  "Only when a member of staff discovered she was not in the building or directly outside did anyone appreciate she may have come to some harm. Sophee Redhead ran in panic and found Lydia in the slide with a rope coiled around her neck. She was carried into the nursery. She was not breathing and she was blue in colour."

All efforts to revive her by nursery staff, paramedics and doctors at York hospital failed and Lydia was declared dead an hour after she was found.
CCTV images from the nursery showed Lydia walking alone towards the slide and climbing the steps before she vanished from view.  Around 20 minutes later, Redhead was shown running towards the area and then, shortly afterwards, rushing back with the child in her arms, the court heard.

Lydia's death in the loop of rope was "completely avoidable" had proper measures been taken to protect her, Smith said.

Earlier in the day, Lydia and other children were caught on camera playing unsupervised on the slide.

Her mother, Rebecca Dick, had just enrolled on a course at the college and had been for introductory sessions with her daughter. The day Lydia died was her first full day at the nursery, the jury was told, and her mother was assured that children were not left alone outside to play on the apparatus.
Despite a risk assessment identifying ropes to be a potential hazard to children, they were not put away every night, and in fact had been left tied to the slide for weeks or months before she died, Smith said.

He accused the nursery of having a "tick-box mentality" towards health and safety, which meant legislation was followed on paper but not in practice.
"The risk assessment showed sensible control measures, but they were not complied with," he said.

A wooden bench was placed on the path to the metal slide at times when children were not supposed to play on it, but they could simply crawl underneath the seat to get past, Smith said.

And if children became caught in the rope they would not be able to extract themselves, he said.

"If in such circumstances a child's neck became entangled the weight of the child and the slope would cause the rope to be tightened around the child's neck with fatal consequences."

In Lydia's age group (three year olds), there were seventeen children in nursery during the course of that day and three staff.

The case against Redhead was that she saw the child walk towards the slide, but took no action to prevent her from going on it, despite knowing there was no other member of staff in the area, Smith said.

She told police she had been on duty outside and was sitting at a picnic bench in the playground.

The case was adjourned until Thursday this week.

Do you ever feel that staff fail to understand the reasons for your Health and Safety policies?
Could they be accused of a "tick box mentality"?  We'd love to hear your comments below.

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