Last word

Helen Burge discoves the benefits of unwinding with a productive hobby


recently purchased a new cross- stitch kit – the first one I’ve had in about 15 years. My husband calls it the ‘kit of neglect’, as he fears

I will become so absorbed in it that I won’t pay him any attention! He is basing this on previous experience, where I would be enjoying my cross stitch so much that I would skip meals and let chores slip. It wasn’t a conscious action 15

years ago to stop cross-stitching – it just slowly slipped off my radar as study, work and family life absorbed more of my time. However, inspired by two colleagues on #SBLTwitter who shared photos of their beautiful creations, I decided to reignite my old hobby and join #SBLStitchclub. We currently have a membership of three: @SpecialSBM, @hutchywraggs and me. But I know from the Twitter feed that others have felt spurred on to do something creative. I’ve really enjoyed picking up cross stitch up again, as it stops me from

checking my inbox in the evenings and at weekends. I’ve been able to immerse myself in something that is not only rewarding in its own right, but is also a complete contrast to the constant decision-making, prioritisation and reactions required in my working week. At the time of writing, I’ve

finished cross stitch number one and moved onto cross stitch number two, which I started as I binge-watched Series 4 of The Crown (watching eight of the 10 episodes back to back with only one loo break!) Other #SBLTwitter colleagues

have shared their approaches to unwinding and switching off: @ AccidentalSBM creates stunning

‘I’ve been able to immerse myself in something that is a complete contrast to my working week’

paintings and @DORSET_SBM has a productive allotment. Both are hobbies that really appeal to me, although I’ve never shown any skill in painting and there’s a long waiting list for allotments where I live. My need to rebalance right now means that a hobby must give me satisfaction feedback quite quickly. I need a short-term fix, which will hopefully grow into a long-term passion – although my husband would argue there is only so much cross stitch a house needs!

Time to reflect Bizarrely, I need to feel that my ‘unwinding time’ is productive – possibly a sign that I’ve not fully changed down a gear in my approach to rebalancing work/life. When I’m stitching and binge-watching, another part of my brain clicks into action and allows me to process thoughts that have been superseded by work and deadlines. It sifts them to the top of the pile again. This reflection has been good for me. A hobby enables you to switch off,

or at least slow down. Some people say they will wait for retirement to have a hobby, but don’t you deserve that peaceful reflective time now? Making the tweaks in your working practices and how you spend your leisure time might prevent unsettled feelings from growing out of control in the future. Certainly, if you are more relaxed at school then you will find more opportunities to make a positive impact in your work. And at home, your hobby will – at the very least – give you the excuse to binge-watch a box set!

Helen Burge is deputy chief operations officer at The Priory Learning Trust and SRMA with Cotswold Beacon Academy Trust. @DeputyCOOatTPLT

58 SPRING 2021 FundEd


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