Tag: mindfulness

Living with anxiety

Anxiety is a funny thing. Lots of people have it, thanks to the frantic world we live in and there are lots of ways to deal with it but it’s still taboo to talk about it. And if you do talk about it, you’ll often get one of two responses: dismissive, where people say things like ‘just don’t worry about it’ or like you’ve just told them you have something contagious like Ebola and they shift away from you in case they catch it.

For me, my anxiety is pretty general. I can become anxious about the tiniest work issue e.g. a run in with a student. Or I can become anxious about massive things e.g. climate change. Both can sit in the pit of my stomach, making me feel nauseous or they can crowd my head, meaning I never really switch off, as I’m constantly thinking about possible scenarios. Both are exhausting.

I am still learning about how to deal with it, as new things trigger it. For example, the state of world politics triggers it, making me go cold and shake a little. As a result, I limit my news intake, avoid Twitter and pretend the world isn’t going to hell in a handbag. (Am currently watching The Walking Dead again, just in case!) I’ve read Matt Haig and Ruby Wax in a bid to try and gain more control over it and there are a few things that I know already help me.

Food. Having anxiety is exhausting. No matter what I feel inside, I hide it from the rest of the world as much as I can and it takes a lot of energy. Eating healthily is essential if I’m to function while I hide what’s going on in my head. Eating a whole food plant based diet definitely helps. I have more energy, I sleep better and I feel better inside. Eating this way also makes me plan my food, gets me organised and helps me feel in control, which is a really important element in managing my anxiety.

Exercise. I’ve been going to spinning classes three times a week for well over a year now. No matter how tired I am, I drag myself to the class as I know it’ll help make me feel better afterwards. It gives me energy for the rest of the evening, provides my week with structure and gives me a break from working and thinking. While I’m on the bike, I have to focus or I’ll lose my way. After reading Matt Haig last year, I also started to incorporate Pilates but I let this go last term, when things got hectic. I definitely notice the difference, both physically and mentally so will be resuming this again. It definitely helps to give my head some space and gives my body some much needed strength work. I’m also going to start using my foam roller again, as my leg muscles are so tight from spinning.

Mindfulness. As I said earlier, I’m going to have a go at Ruby Wax’s mindfulness course from her book, Frazzled, and I’m going to give Headspace another chance. I think I’m going to do it in the morning, as I struggle to find time in the evening and my head is always buzzing from the day. I’ve also started up knitting and learning to crochet again. I might not have time to do this during the week, but Sunday nights are quite tough for me so I’m making Sunday night craft night, where I can do something simple.

Reading. This has been a massive help to me and something that I lean on the worse my anxiety gets. It started with me binge reading How to Stop Time and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine back to back and ended with me beating my Goodreads reading challenge target last year. Reading makes me focus 100% on what I’m doing – no checking my phone, no watching TV and it’s something I can do anywhere – in bed, in school, in a cafe, on the coastpath. I need to schedule time on the weekend, either during a lie in or in the afternoon, where I can just sit by the fire, indulging it some epic adventures.

A rainbow of a hill, Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire. Nature helps with my anxiety.

Nature. Being outside, not matter what the weather is doing, is food for the soul. In fact, if I’m feeling particularly anxious, I will make a point of going outside and touching a tree. I try to take in the sound, sight and smell of nature whenever I can, as it helps me feel calmer. It’s one of the reasons I like to go walking during the holidays, as it helps me re-calibrate. Having said that, I’m really relieved that the days are getting lighter and the sun is about a bit more. Having previously been a fan of winter, I’m much happier when it’s warmer and brighter. I practically lived outside last summer, reading in the garden whenever I could (yes, I’m aware that head was probably caused by climate change, which causes me anxiety!)

I’m also going to be looking into essential oils and how I can use them to help me feel calmer, especially when I’m doing the things above as much as I can. It might not help, but I’m happy to give it a try. I’m also open about my anxiety. I even gave tips during a faculty meeting last year, which got shared with the whole staff and was outed as a result to everyone in one go! But it helped open up a conversation with a few people. I’m also open (professionally) with my students about it and again, this has helped them articulate how they feel with others. One parent even emailed me to thank me about the tips I shared. We must talk about anxiety as much as we can to get rid of the stigma that still surrounds it, as it’ll help more people to handle it better.

Taking some Time

Well that was quite an extended blog break! It was completely unplanned, but unfortunately, the life of a teacher can be very overwhelming at times. This year was my first year at a new school and I have had a very busy year rewriting the curriculum for every year group (I teach in a secondary school so that’s years 7-13), including two new specifications (GCSE and A Level) and supporting an NQT doing maternity cover. I ran out of steam about two weeks before the end of term and was unable to do anything constructive. I was exhausted and it has taken me a few weeks of the summer holidays to be able to do anything that requires any great deal of thought.Β  As the end of term drew closer and my work load didn’t demand my every waking moment, I started to really notice how tired I was and how much work I had done during the academic year. It made me realise that, in the hope that I won’t have to work quite as hard next year, I should be able to have more time for myself. Not only that, I need to make it a priority and find time for myself, away from work. Here’s what I plan to do:

Exercise

For most of my life, I have only equated exercise with weight loss. Why else would I exercise, if I wasn’t doing it to burn calories? (usually meaning I could then get take away?!) Well, back at the beginning of June, I joined our local gym. Poppy goes to daycare most days so doesn’t need a walk when I get home. This has been my only form of exercise, which isn’t enough any way and doesn’t give me real space from my day. However, doing a spinning or Pilates class really does. I can’t think about anything else, except what I am doing in that moment, and that makes it perfect for self-care. Both classes help with my hypermobility and I feel great after each class. I really need to remember this feeling when school starts.

Thames walk

Diet

While I have been cutting out lots of processed stuff, my diet isn’t as wholefood plant based as I would like. I keep reading about the benefits this kind of diet can have on your wellbeing but haven’t found a practical way of putting it into practice. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be doing batch cooking on weekends, to help us have healthy wholefood, plant based meals and snacks made from scratch to enjoy during the week. This way, we won’t be eating dinner really late, or relying on processed foods. I’m also hoping that it’ll help us eat more seasonally and cut down on our plastic usage. Keep an eye on my Instagram account for this, as I’ll be using it as a kind of food diary.

Chickpea stew Grated salad lunch

Stress Management

Anyone else feeling completely overwhelmed by the world? Me too. Never mind work being stressful, we are living in crazy times. Who would have thought that the threat of nuclear war would be the second scariest thing to happen this summer?! I know I worry too much, usually about things I can’t control. It affects my sleep and my whole outlook. To try and counteract this, I’ve starting using the Headspace app. Ten minutes of mindfulness every evening, as a break between work and bed is something that I think will help me switch off.

One of the great things about this time of year is the feeling that you can start over. I’m really looking forward to autumn and everything that it brings with it. I’m also looking forward to looking after myself more too. How about you? Are you making any September resolutions? Let me know!