Working as a teacher, I feel like I should find half-term breaks a pleasant and relaxing time. However, I work in a non-mainstream school so things are a lttle different and im contacted to work through the traditional school holidays. Across the two weeks of the Easter break, I took the first week off as holiday and worked the second. Although being me, I was unable to really switch off for most of the two weeks anyway.

As I have worked on building a career in the voluntary/charity sector, be it as a youth worker or a teacher, I have always had issues with inflated sense of responsibility, overstretching myself and work-related anxiety and it’s knock-on effects; often leading to some form of ‘meltdown’ that usually results in some sort of time off.

This half-term, I have been worrying a lot… worrying about taking on some extra responsibilities at work, worrying about planning my lessons (a process I make more laborious and painstaking than I need to), worrying about the pupils behaviours in the upcoming term (I work with challenging and disaffected young people), worrying about my own resilience and stress levels, worrying about my colleagues… In short, worrying about every aspect of my work that I can comprehensibly worry about.

When talking about my mental health recently, a birding friend asked me what it was that was making me stressed and all I could say was that it was work. On the day he asked me, even though I was a proverbial million miles away from work, I still found myself worrying about it. We were out on his coastal patch and it was a beautiful day; I saw my first spring migrants that day, which was really uplifting, a sort of avian prelude of new species to be seen through the seasons. This exhilarating but temporary distraction to other worries was much appreciated.

When I am anxious, of low mood or simply unable to manage my thought processes and responses to stress, nothing is better than getting out into the fresh air, finding and observing birds; a ‘healthy escape clause’. My default reaction is to ‘run to my local patch’ and this has been rewarded as so far this year I’ve seen/found; Smew, Goosander, Woodlark, Firecrest and Ring Ouzel all at my inland Norfolk patch within 8 miles of Norwich’s outer ring road. All of these birds have filled me with a great sense of pride in my efforts and as I’ve written about before, I love watching the flora and fauna change as a location remains static.

Birding really is the ‘perfect tonic’ on so many different levels .

2 thoughts on “The Perfect Tonic

  1. I’ve just come across your blog after a retweet, and I have to say I identify with it so much…I too am a teacher, with a workload that I often find unmanageable and stressful, and birdwatching has become a really important way of taking me away from it all. I am so lucky that my two children also enjoy this (and my partner tolerates it!), so we can often go out into our nearby reserve to check on the woodpecker nest after a hard day at work…the open air, the birdsong and the focus on a target provide such a release from everyday struggles.

    Thankyou for such a beautiful expression of the therapeutic values of birding.


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