I haven’t posted in a while now. Partly this is because school has kept me immensely busy, but it’s also partly down to the fact that my mood has been a little like a rollercoaster lately and I just haven’t had the energy or good-will required to write about teaching alongside doing it.
Before February half-term, I really felt myself moving into a bad place. In the final week of half term, I was working later and later, yet I’d starting waking up earlier and earlier each morning. I would lie in bed at 4am with my heart racing, thinking of all the things I had to do and wishing I didn’t have to go in.
I haven’t felt this anxious since I completed my PGCE. Luckily, in the years between then and now, I’ve had a course of CBT, read and listened to countless TED talks and self-help books and basically developed a decent tool-set for dealing with this. I’m not the same person I was, though clearly I have returned to some of the same bad habits.
So…older and a little wiser, I spent my week off reading and highlighting a mammoth self-help book entitled, ‘Mind over Mood,’ by Greenberger and Padesky, which I’m happy to report has refreshed my memory of things I’d uncovered in CBT all those years ago, and also given me some new strategies to tackle my worries and fears, and get my smile back. Alongside this, I’ve re-read an old treasure; Susan Jeffer’s ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!’ which has given me the mantra ‘I’ll handle it.’ Simple as it is, repeating this in my head when I have a million things going on at school really does calm me down.
I’m also taking up Susan’s idea that if you’re in a particularly bad place, you might need to spend 6 weeks of practising positivity to ‘get happy’ and then you can just practise basic maintenance. A bit like Jillian Michael’s ‘Six Week Six Pack’ but it’s my brain that will be buff, not my belly.
So what’s the plan?
Exercise (10 minutes yoga in a morning and 20 minutes cardio/strength on an evening): From my dalliance (Bad Romance?) with anxiety in the past, I know that exercise is vital for me in maintaining high spirits. When I stop getting endorphins, it’s never long before my cheery demeanour becomes cloudy. Yoga is also just a lovely, mindful start to the day too.
Quit the Caffeine: I’m really affected by coffee and I’ve come to rely on it heavily. If I’ve been in school from 7.30AM but then return home at 5PM with marking and paperwork to do, a really strong coffee is my go-to to get me through it. It really does make me feel amazing…until it doesn’t. I am positive that this is worsening the symptoms of my anxiety – it makes me feel jittery, distracted and on-edge. Therefore, I’ll be cutting down to one when I get home from school in the first week and then go to nothing after the first five days. I know this is going to be really hard, but I’m going to try getting my energy from exercise and smoothies, rather than worry-laden java.
Good-Mood Food: In general, my diet is pretty healthy. I don’t eat many processed foods and I love fruit and veg, but admittedly if I’m in a bad mood I do sometimes reach for the wine, which I know worsens my mood. I’ll just be looking to tighten this up and get as much wholesome variety from my diet as possible.
CBT Activities: I love to write things down and luckily, the ‘Mind over Mood’ book I’ve just finished certainly supports this geeky fetish. The next six weeks will be jam-packed with fear ladders, action plans, thought records and experiments. I will unpick each shitty thought, value and assumption using a myriad of worksheets. And yes, I will be purchasing a new shiny lever-arch file to store it all in.
Work-Smart Approach at School: It’s hardly surprising that when my workload increases at home and schoolwork begins to take priority over everything else, that’s when my good mood plummets. Working ‘smarter’ not harder (in an effort to have less to do at home) was one of my new year’s resolutions, and I’ve definitely made steps forward in this department. My ultimate goal is to have work-free evenings 3 days per week and I’m a long way off as yet, but I’m working on it.
So there it is. When I thought about this yesterday, I had decided that I didn’t want to share this and thought that writing about it might be just another waste of time. But today, it just felt right.