Focus on Education May 2021


I would like to discuss the art of stopping. This may seem like a weird subject and one which perhaps does not warrant any time, but it is actually a crucially important part of life which is so easily overlooked by us all. In our day-to-day lives, we all attempt to promote a state of constant business. I remember as a young teacher being told by a more senior colleague to always ensure that I had a piece of paper in my hand when walking around school. The aim being to always look busy and being rushed! We assume that the person actively ‘doing’ is inherently doing the right thing. The idea of just stopping is wholly counter-cultural. By stopping, we assume it is ceasing productivity. We assume it is out of laziness and we often frown upon it.

However, stopping is essential for both our mental and physical wellbeing. I mentioned this last week when promoting Mindfulness. We need to recognise when we are doing too much of something, whether it is work, sport or anything else for that matter. This is something I certainly struggle with and as such probably means I am the least qualified person to be telling you this. However, I know I am not alone.

During the period of online learning, many of you will have sat at computers for hours, logging off one Teams call and straight onto the next, hardly moving from your desk or switching off. In addition, those students with upcoming exams will feel the pressure of constant work for a seemingly never-ending string of assessments.

It may feel like there is no opportunity to stop, but we should always try to make one.

Stopping for breaks can bring a huge number of benefits. They help you to relax and, although it seems counter-intuitive, they make you more productive. Breaks are essential to offer your brain a chance to recover. But perhaps, the most powerful thing about stopping is the ability to simply clear your thoughts and temporarily escape from external stresses. It is the one opportunity to switch off and take notice of the smaller but equally important things in life.

Therefore, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed with work or are rushing from one lesson or task to the next, just take some time to stop. Even if it were as little as 30 seconds, I would encourage you to use this time to switch off. You will feel better for it and take notice of things you might otherwise miss.

Boketto is a Japanese word, which means ‘the act of gazing or staring into the distance without thinking’.

So later today and over the coming weeks, take a moment to stop and practice the art of Boketto.

Over the coming weeks, the things that we value will return to us. Social events will be allowed; the ability to meet and mix with each other has returned and will return more freely. Life will get busier and more frenetic which is exciting but we will all need to stop too!

Stay well and safe.

Be kind to yourself and each other.

Dr Bird