10 ways to stay calm when you’re working through university clearing
The internet is full of advice and guidance for applicants on how to stay calm during Clearing. But what about the university staff who are busy managing telephone lines, co-ordinating a stressful publishing schedule of emails and web updates, closing full courses, monitoring the data, keeping servers alive, fixing rogue chatbots, processing applications, and so on?
So, I’m donning my coaching hat for a moment to share advice on how to remain calm and centred on one of the busiest days of the year for UK universities.
1. Remind yourself of the why
The work that you do – every single one of you – creates possibility. Every day in higher education is about changing lives. But results day and Clearing is like condensing that into one giant stack of possibility. Feel the excitement and remember the impact that you’re having. Pop a post-it note on your computer that says something like “Today I change lives forever”, “I am the possibility of education and change”, “I create possibility” or something that speaks of your purpose.
2. Stay present to your being
We get stuck into a lot of “doing” during results week and Clearing. It’s a busy time after all. But remember to also focus on your “being” and not just your “doing”. Your way of being will have a ripple effect on those whom you’re working with or speaking to. If you’re being stressed and anxious, that’s what they will feel – and perhaps be – too. Create a stand for how you will “be” today and stay present to that – pop another post-it note on your computer or set reminders on your phone to help bring you back to that state of being. Examples of great “being” stands for Clearing include:
- Or something else that really works for you.
3. Remember that the “now” is the only important thing
With a lot to do, our brains can be rushing ahead to all of the other things that you haven’t yet done. However, the future is just a story in your head that hasn’t been written yet. So why dwell on that? And the past is just an abstraction of something that no longer exists, so that has no role to play in the now either. Instead just focus on one moment at a time. Stand for your being (see point 2) in that moment.
Pause. Breathe. Slow down. Even if it’s just for 20 seconds. Just take those 20 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes or however long you can give it to sit and just focus on your breathing, blocking everything else out. If your mind wanders, focus your attention back on your breath. Don’t get stressed if your mind wanders – that’s totally natural and not a sign that you’re “doing relaxing wrong”. Stop beating yourself up (see point 9).
5. Nourish your body
Hydrate. Have breakfast. Eat lunch. Order takeaway if you have to. Move around. Consider exercise before your day starts to give you an energy boost and don’t neglect food just because you’re busy. If you care for yourself, you are in a much better condition to then care for everyone else whom you are in service of today.
6. Say no
You’re busy. You have a job to do. It’s okay on any day to say no to people. Use today as a chance to really practice that. You can say no with compassion and kindness. But say no.
7. Empower others to say no
And recognise that in the spirit of team, connection, kindness and compassion, you serve others by also empowering them to say no. This also means getting good with them saying no to you too. Practice empathy, grace and acceptance when they say no to you.
8. Practice gratitude and acknowledgement
Nothing energises and centres us quite like practicing gratitude and acknowledgement of ourselves and of others. Take a moment to write or just consider what you are grateful for today – including gratitude to yourself. With your colleagues you could create a structure through the day to practice this – quick fire acknowledgements as you go through the day. Pop a post-it note on a stressed colleague’s desk, for example, just to say “thank you for the passion and heart that you bring to the call centre today”.
9. Calm your inner critic
When we get busy our inner critic can kick into over-drive. That’s the voice that says you can’t, shouldn’t, should, must, and a whole host of other assertions and judgements. That can be “you’re doing a terrible job”, “you’re really stressed”, “you’re not good enough”, “you’re not going to make that target”… all sorts. Your inner critic just needs to do one. Notice it and wave it goodbye. It’s not serving you.
10. Pat yourself on the back
In the spirit of gratitude and acknowledgement, but also in the spirit of celebration, create space to reward yourself for the work you are doing right now and who you are being (true to your stand). Reward yourself.
I stand for the possibility that you create. Thank you for the work you do.