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Anxiety and panic attacks - How can I 'recover'?

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by RedBedHead94, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. RedBedHead94

    RedBedHead94 Established commenter

    I was signed off on Monday with work related anxiety and panic attacks!

    I knew I was stressed and anxious and felt I was **** (NQT Year in a fledgling academy convert after getting special measures, new HOD who is also NQT mentor who wasn't really following through with promises of help and support, kind of just got left to 'get on with it'.. all pretty much a recipe for stress and mental health disaster!) but I didn't realise the palpitations and shortness of breath - that happened everywhere from in bed while I was marking books to in the middle of lessons - were panic attacks! After a spectacular tantrum and sobbing sesh over my hair not drying properly on Saturday, my partner had me call in sick and go to the GP... the rest is history.

    So i'm off until the end of half term, at the very least. GP had me self-refer to IAPT for counselling, but i'm off to see him again during the half term, he may offer other help then.

    What else can I do to help myself?

    I've got CBT worksheets, but haven't been able to come out of anxious lack of concentration long enough to sit and look at them. I was given a Paul McKenna De-stress hypnosis thing, but I listened to it last night before bed and still had a panic attack in the middle of the night!
  2. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Firstly realise that this isn't just you, it happens to many teachers even more seasoned ones and also there are a number of NQTs a year that need to leave their first school. As an NQT you've not got much stuff to back you up in terms of experience so that can just add to the potential for stress. I would also seriously consider re-evaluating your options, I've seen in other threads that you may have done that already, and consider the choice of health/career over job.

    You'll need to work out what about the job is causing this, is it teaching in general or just trying to teach at the school you are at? That will take some time. If you have already gone with the route of handing in your notice do you already have a plan for what you do next? Clearly I can't give medical advice but if you are still keen to see if you can handly teaching then once you've got things under control in terms of stess levels then you could try supply teaching. Supply is very unpredictable and the amount of work can vary depending on your region, key stages taught and subject specialisms. However it is also perfectly possible to do your induction on supply, I did my last 2 terms of induction that way, and you will be entitled to all the NQT treatment you would get with direct employment.

    Do some daily/short term supply first though, it'll help you see if you are comfortable being in the classroom again as well as finding out what a range of schools are like and helping you develop those all important classroom/behaviour management techniques. Additionally when you are doing long term supply you can have a little more control over things and you will always know you can walk away if stuff is getting too difficult at a school. And even if you only do this for a year or so it gets you past induction and then if you really find you don't want to teach you can us it as a way to earn money whilst you job hunt.

    The only thing I will say about dealing with the long term effects of having had WRS and the like is that even once you have got over things this time just like a physical injury you'll feel it twinge every now and then. What I mean by this is that, just like with a joint thats had an injury thats left it useable but a litle weaker once healed, is every so often you'll feel a twinge, this might just mean that you are a tiny bit more likely to start to be effected again or as I suspect it's more you'll notice the strain much earlier. And with this I am just speaking from my own experience and how I've noticed things about myself in the years since I had to deal with WRS, aside some low level back ground stuff (which I suspect I've always been prone to even before the WRS) and the odd actual reactivation of things I am my normal self.

    And the one thing I will finish on if that there will be no greater feeling of relief/joy when you start to notice things that are actually the normal unstressed you poking through ahead of getting back to being you. I can't tell you when that will happen as recovery rates will vary from individuals, but I can tell you that it will happen, and I really do hope you enjoy those good vibes when you realise the normal you is coming back. :)
    thistledoo likes this.
  3. install

    install Star commenter

    Take up exercise and stop thinking...get your life back and your love of life..

    Find support networks and use them
    emerald52 and s10327 like this.
  4. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    Leave teaching. Sorry. It won't get any better. You might get used to it, but really, is that what you want from your chosen career? "its awful, but I've over come the panic attacks, and got used to it now"
  5. bed

    bed New commenter

    Look for a counsellor.
    Ask your GP to refer you for face to face counselling in addition to your CBT (which is v limited in its effect)

    Many private counsellors will adjust their charges according to your ability to pay - many don't. But it's worth it - counselling is usually around £30 - £45 per hour's session. (Some are £80+ these are psychotherapists)

    For 6 sessions this is £180-£270 which seems a lot but is the same as a hefty garage bill for the car....

    Take some time off
    Find some space and some peace to be calmer

    And good luck xx
    RedBedHead94 likes this.
  6. Apple101

    Apple101 Occasional commenter

    Well its not a bad thing! After reading that, you are thinking this internet person is crazy. However the fact that you are getting stressed and anxious means you are the sort of person that wants to do well. This will make you a good teacher as you can't get anxious without caring.

    It sounds like you are in a tough school. So you need to work out whether you will be able to work through the problems or sorry to say may need to leave this school. You have to accept some schools are like that.

    So sit down and decide what parts you are struggling with.

    Are you struggling with behaviour management? (I assume yes considering your school and the fact you are an NQT, we all struggled with behaviour management at some point.

    Is it the planning? (Are you spending every waking hour planning spectacular lessons, this is draining you need to prioritise)

    Are you sleeping enough? Poor sleep just makes everything worse.

    I had CBT before but with an actual person and i found it to be really good. As far as I know its one of the only psych methods that actually has credible evidence behind it. Which is good because it is all about evidence. I was a massive perfectionist before but I have since learned that good enough is good enough. I even tried roughly planning some lessons just to see what would happen as I feared it would be the apocalypse. No devils with pitchforks. All was fine. Nothing much was learned but nobody died.

    Persist with the Paul Mckenna thing for a bit it may work. But his work relys on NLP and not everyone can be hypnotised. Case in point me. I found the headspace app to be really good for my mental wellbeing these days.

    Having said all that there is a certain amount of natural stress that comes with the job which eventually contributed to me leaving. Your stress sounds like it needs some help so keep getting help from people. Asking for help is okay!
    RedBedHead94 and emerald52 like this.
  7. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    When I was having panic attacks earlier this year I found they were exacerbated by certain things - caffeine was one, talking to people from work or about work was another. I started learning lists of random trivia so that when my head started buzzing and my heart ws pounding, I could distract myself by reciting the lists. I avoided talking about work unless I had to - I changed the subject by saying "let's not talk about that right now".
    Do some gentle exercise, make sure you get out of the house every day and do things to try and get into a more stable frame of mind. I read voraciously. I think I read something like 50 books in the space of 2 months. I needed distraction and not to think. Boxsets, films etc work just as well. When you're feeling a little more like yourself, you'll probably benefit from the therapy and CDs a bit more.
    Good luck.
    RedBedHead94 and emerald52 like this.
  8. MrsArmitage

    MrsArmitage Occasional commenter

    I've also been in the anxiety/panic attack club, and it does suck rather! I was referred to group therapy for six weeks by my GP, which was amazing. We were all rather embarrassed to be there, but desperately keen to get better, and everyone was so encouraging and supporting. One of the things we discussed was building in 'worry time' - where you can have 10 minutes / half an hour in the day to just have a worry. You have to put off your worrying until then! After a few days of thinking 'oh I'll have to leave this until worrying time', I realised it was actually too much effort to worry!

    I also saw a counsellor on my own, which was very cathartic to begin with, but then I started to get fed up of focussing so much attention (and money) on my job. I realised then that I could change my job, or just change how I view my job. I did the latter. I'm never going to get on top of my marking, I'm never going to tick all the boxes, and I'm never going to get on the right side of SMT, but so what?! Neither is anyone else!

    Exercise works a treat too. I started running. Not to anywhere in particular, I just burst into a trot every now and then. I also made 'to do' lists with one thing on them. Always an easy win!

    Take whatever your doctor offers, get plenty of sleep and fresh air, and plan something fun.
    RedBedHead94 likes this.
  9. s10327

    s10327 Occasional commenter

    I've been there too.
    Don't worry about getting better at the moment - you are probably still automatically over thinking everything, which is a classic symptom. As the other posters have said, stop thinking for a bit, follow your GPs advice, learn to enjoy yourself guilt free.
    WhWhen it happened to me, I found that the moment I felt even slightly relaxed I immediately panicked and thought "Oh God, I'm better and I should be back at work" which I obviously wasn't.e

    The point I'm trying to make is something about being able to relax and enjoy yourself without feeling guilty or making plans which you shouldn't be making or at least be acting on, but I'm struggling to find the right words.

    Best wishes.
    Shedman and emerald52 like this.
  10. RedBedHead94

    RedBedHead94 Established commenter

    All advice given so far is amazing and I am going to try as much as possible - Thank you everyone!

    The recurring theme is taking the time to recover. My Academy are being very difficult about this - I had an absence meeting in my second week of sickness where they set a target for me to be back straight after half term - that hasn't happened and my current sick note runs out beginning of next week, and with my CBT/counselling appointments not confirmed yet, or my occupational health report sent to me, I'm going to have to seek another doctor's note! My pay stops entirely next week though (academy don't follow burgudy book, I only get paid for the first 25 days of absence..) and they will likely be summoning me to a 'formal' absence meeting imminently,

    So i've pretty much got no choice to resign, do a job that is less taxing while I recover and develop coping strategies, then possibly have another stab at it in another school next year.

    Oh well - health comes first!
  11. emerald52

    emerald52 Star commenter

    So sorry you are going through this. There are good schools to work in and it is such a shame you drew the short straw. Have you involved your union?
    RedBedHead94 likes this.
  12. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    My GP put me onto MoodGYM a few years back, which I found to be very good - and free:


    Plus - I have just discovered BorrowMyDoggy.com... :)
    RedBedHead94 likes this.
  13. RedBedHead94

    RedBedHead94 Established commenter

    Union are involved - slightly powerless as it's an Academy, however. They're doing what they can for me though.

    @GLsghost Who needs a website - i've got four dogs already! :p MoodGym looks good too.
  14. neddyfonk

    neddyfonk Lead commenter

    The good news is its all in your mind, the bad news is your mind often does things to your body it does not like. I have acquired enormous empathy for women having hot flushes when I had one totally out of the blue as I sat down to eat a big breakfast ( mainly egg/black pudding). Worrying the ache in my side might be a dodgy kidney. Being convinced my pounding heart and heavy perspiration was an impending heart attack.
    Once the doctor confirms anxiety you can start to rationalize the symptoms and devise avoiding / coping / distracting strategies. That will be a personal quest and I wish you all the best finding a solution to it.
    RedBedHead94 likes this.
  15. thistledoo

    thistledoo Senior commenter

    I am wishing you all the very best for your recovery and strength to deal with your school. There's lots of good advice been given and I particularly agree with @Moony.

    You may find that leaving your school is not imminent... Burgundy Book or not, I'm pretty sure that a school/ any work place has a duty of care and there are legal procedures to follow. This is easy for me to say but - don't worry about it... there are other options open to you. There always is. Your health and happiness is worth more.

    I still suffer panic attacks at times, I can get them under control by breathing - yoga style. I can sense when one is beginning. After it's over, I know it's time to look at what has triggered it.
  16. RedBedHead94

    RedBedHead94 Established commenter

    It was imminent - handed in my notice on Thursday. They said they were following procedure by involving Occupational Health... who still have not sent the report (or had my school just not said anything to me? hmm..)

    Not having the pressure of them wanting me to get back in and on with it has helped immensely. Shall look into the breathing techniques too - thank you :)
  17. indusant

    indusant Senior commenter

    I have found that doing Tai Chi and Qi Gong to be very good exercise and helpful with dealing with anxiety. They also develop greater awareness and mindfulness of the breath. A good teacher should also be able to sense where you are carrying tension in your body, and help you to relax. However, a teacher of high quality is often rare and can be hard to come by, so it is worthwhile doing some research in your area if you are going to look in to this.

    I think it's also of benefit if you can do something you can get 'lost' in... For me, this is playing a musical instrument, but it will depend on your interests. For example, I can sit playing my guitar for hours... I just get totally focused on it, strumming the chords and practicing songs. Soon there will come a point when I have forgotten all worries of the past and future and I am very relaxed. It brings you in to the present moment. For me, this also happens when doing Tai Chi, and when walking in nature.

    It's good to do something that develops your interests (but is totally separate to work), so perhaps consider joining a group that is related to one of your hobbies.

    Just a few things that I have found to be of use... I wish you well on your path.

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