I studied Drama and Education at University. It was here that I had the title role in a somewhat bizarre production, based on the story of ‘Oedipus’, a Greek tragedy. Imagine the excitement of this young cast of actors, when we discovered, that a theatre critic from The Guardian, was coming to review our play. I was at my very best that evening, or so I thought, and then a couple of days later the review appeared there in black and white. The reviewer deservedly heaped praise on the cast, one by one. I scanned the column inches waiting for my mention. Clearly, they were saving the best until last! I reached the last line. The leading actor was the only member of the cast not to receive a mention at all. How embarrassing!
Despite this setback and dent to my ego, I continued acting after I left university and became a member of a local amateur dramatic society, specialising in comedy and farce. I loved it. We laughed so much in evening rehearsals and there is no feeling in the world like getting an audience to laugh in the right places in a performance.
As I got into my second headship, I reigned it in, taking behind the scenes roles so that I didn’t have to expend time learning lines. A couple of years later, I stopped going altogether because I told myself I was just too busy with evening meetings at work.
The result of this was that I was ‘never on holiday inside my head.’ Even when I wasn’t at work, work issues would be ticking away inside my head. I would watch tv but not take it in. I would read a chapter of a book only to have to re-read it the following night. Mentally exhausting and ultimately unsustainable.
To remain resilient in the hectic modern world we need to be able to switch off from work. Now some people find it easier to relax than others, a walk in the park or yoga may be just the ticket. For others it is more difficult. The headteacher of our local secondary school has been in post for a number of years but prior to that he was the deputy head of the school. He told me once when he was deputy head he found it relatively easy to relax. Just watching TV would be enough. But now, as a headteacher, he finds it more difficult and so he distracts himself from work instead. He has enrolled in an Italian evening class. Whilst he is trying to learn and speak a foreign language his mind is fully occupied, and he can’t be thinking about work. On other evenings of the week, if he finds his brain is slipping into work mode when he doesn’t want it to, he goes off and practises his Italian for five to ten minutes and it is just enough to break the cycle.
For me, rehearsing and performing plays performed much the same function; giving me a mental rest from work.
However busy you think you are, (and I know you are really busy), you cannot afford not to give yourself a mental break. Find or re-discover an interest that will relax or distract you from the pressures of the working week.
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