The last week of the month (possibly the third week if I've been a little careless) always brings with it a little fear, I am afraid I might go overdrawn. It is a genuine fear, borne out of historical actions, debts and bills. It's quantifiable, somewhat avoidable but there all the same. The anxiety that comes with it, that's a whole new story, I build that on the rocky foundation of fear, but fear and anxiety are very different.
The genuine fear of the telephone not ringing to offer work will resonate with most supply teachers, the anxiety built on that fear will be different for everyone, but it will always be built on the firm foundations of fear. Not getting that phone call when there's bills to pay is real, but not always something you have lots of control over, how you deal with the lack of call and associated worry is controllable, with practice. How you climb up the ladder of anxiety when the call doesn't come may feel like something rapid and out of control, but there are techniques to talk yourself down because it is within your control. I'm not talking about deep rooted, clinical anxiety that limits life and ability, I'm talking about day to day anxiety that can blow up like a balloon that rarely pops, (but it can be deflated!)
When you climb up the ladder of anxiety you get from the bottom rung of perhaps not having enough to cover bills, right to the top rung of losing your home and being penniless and in the streets quicker than you can physically climb. It may sound extreme but as you climb up the ladder with the speed of a ninja warrior (or worrier), you get to the top, the worst rung where life has collapsed and there is nowhere to go. Except down.
Imagine all the skills you have for the classroom; reasoning, knowledge, bringing life to life, conflict resolution, rationality and reason. It is this emotional resilience that you will teach others as second nature that is often very difficult to apply to yourself. On the top rung of the anxiety ladder, worried and wobbly, reasoned argument can feel a very long way away. Take some deep breaths and step down a worry. Think realistically, how have you managed before, what is within your control, what is real? What do you need help with and what can you do yourself?
Any situation of anxiety is fear pushed to the extreme limits, stretched beyond reality and mixed with a massive blob of negative imagination. Worst case scenario shouted in capitals with some exclamation marks at the end. But how often does the worst of what we imagine actually greet us in reality?
Have that thought in your mind as you step down a rung. What proactive things can you do to make calls come? Step down a rung. What could you do with a day at home? Plan and cook some cheap meals, make some realistic plans, step down a rung.
Hold what you can in your hands that is within your control and work or what you can do with that. The things out of your control need to be let go of as these cannot be changed. Step down a rung. Deep breaths, reasoning, and the top of the ladder may seem quite far away.
Explosions of worry and anxiety are part of life. How we negotiate with ourselves once we are at the top of that anxiety ladder will determine how well we manage to deal with the day to day worries that arrive. Keeping things real and rational will save us the exhaustion of all that climbing and give us time to be in control. And that's when we get things done.
By Resident Writer Helen Bradford