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The Teaching Space Podcast

The podcast is on pause for a year (as of August 2021) as I am tackling the final year of my masters in education (which I am doing alongside my full-time job). In the meantime, please revisit the considerable back catalogue of episodes. Also, give me a follow on Twitter, where I am still very active and sign up for my personal newsletter here. You can visit The Teaching Space website here: theteachingspace.com.

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Jan 18, 2020

Episode 79 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores ways teachers and trainers can manage worry.

Introduction

Today it’s personal! When I started this podcast back in 2017 I didn’t have plans to talk about myself a great deal. I knew I wanted to help teachers and trainers try to achieve their version of work/life balance, but of course, there was a personal reason for that. Without talking about myself explicitly, it was still about me. I was in a position to share some useful strategies I had learned due to my own experience.

Today I’d like to share a bit more of my story and also show you how I am still learning new strategies and don’t plan to stop.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

One of the main reasons I have worked so hard on creating a work/life balance for myself and also being as productive as possible is because I have anxiety.

Specifically, I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (“GAD”) which is described by the NHS as “a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event”. While lots of different things trigger my anxiety, one of the worst is not being in control. You can imagine the effect an excessive workload and complete absence of work/life balance had on my anxiety.

Medical Management

While my anxiety has been managed medically for years, I decided, in close consultation with my doctor, that I wanted to come off anti-depressants about six months ago. Obviously, I was anxious about it (go figure!) as I’d had several “failed attempts” in the past. I gave it a try and it did not go well, but rather than take the path of least resistance I went back to my doctor and asked for additional help. She arranged for me to receive cognitive behavioural therapy (“CBT”).

Before I go on, just in case this needs clarifying:

  1. I am not for or against anti-depressants; they were a medical intervention that worked for me at a difficult time. My choice to come off them was entirely mine - I am not suggesting anyone should go on them or come off them.
  2. Also, I am not a medical professional, what I share in this episode is just about me and my experience.
  3. Please see your doctor if you are anxious or require medication, or want to come off your medication.

CBT

According to the NHS website, CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

CBT is not for everyone. It has not cured me; I am still pretty anxious. However, it has helped me learn some strategies for managing my anxiety. It has put me more in control of how I react to situations.

I’d like to share some of the strategies that are working for me (these are very much from a non-professional’s perspective; the language is mine).

Classifying Your Worries

This strategy relies on you being able to spot a worry when it is happening. A good way to learn how to do this is by logging worries. I found a great app called Worry Watch to do this.

  • When you notice a worry, ask yourself: is it practical or hypothetical? (“Practical” meaning a worry that is affecting you right now and has a practical solution; “hypothetical” meaning a type of worry about something in the future that there might not be a solution for).
  • If your worry is practical, then apply problem-solving strategies.
    • What is the worry?
    • What is the problem?
    • What are all the solutions? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
    • What is the best solution?
    • Make a plan.
    • Put the plan into action.
    • Review.
  • If the worry is hypothetical, then let it go (or defer the worry to a later time).

Prioritising Self-Care and Positive Thoughts

Without a doubt, my incidents of anxiety are reduced when I make time for self-care and positive thoughts. I have scientifically proven it to myself!

My self-care activities are going to the gym (who even am I?) and knitting. I also enjoy cooking (when not under pressure) and walking my dog. When I skip these activities I feel bad.

On the positive thoughts side of things, at the risk of sounding a bit “woo”, I recommend an app called 3 Good Things. It’s a super-simple, free happiness journal which prompts you to note three good things that happened that day. It forces you to spend just a few moments thinking positive.

54321

Finally, when I am in the midst of full-on anxiety feelings I use the 54321 method. Here’s how to do it:

  • Name five things you can see in the room with you.
  • Name four things you can feel.
  • Name three things you can hear right now.
  • Name two things you can smell right now.
  • Name one good thing about yourself.

I stop, breath and go through the steps above. Usually, I get them all mixed up but I am not sure it matters. The process is about distracting yourself from your worry. Weirdly, it works (don’t ask me how!)

Wrap Up

That’s it from me today. If this episode helps one person then it’s worth the mild discomfort of getting personal.

Please feel free to reach out if this episode has resonated with you - it’s always lovely to hear from listeners. And, as I mentioned earlier, if you are struggling with anxiety, the best person to talk to is your doctor.

Support the Show

That’s it for today. Before I go I have a small request: if you enjoyed today’s episode, please support by leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.

Questions? Comments?

If you have any questions about the show or thoughts you’d like to share you can do so by either:

  1. Leaving a comment on this episode’s show notes blog post.
  2. Posting in our Facebook group: TTS Staff Room.
  3. Posting on Twitter (I’m @MartineGuernsey if you want to mention me).
  4. Contacting me via The Teaching Space website: theteachingspace.com.
  5. Leaving me a voicemail on Voxer where I’m theteachingspace.

The show notes for this episode include any links I’ve mentioned; you can find them at theteachingspace.com.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll join me for the next episode.