This isn’t a “Ten Ways to Beat Teaching English With Anxiety” kind of article. This is an insight into living with something that is demanding of your strength, your thoughts and your willpower.
Teaching English with anxiety
I do deep breathing exercises, yoga, herbal teas, lavender baths, walking and these do improve my daily life. However, as soon as it’s time to teach my brain is doing laps and my heart is in my throat!
What, you’re a bit nervous?!
Anxiety is crippling. I would love to be that person who can take the slightest criticism on the chin. I crave a night’s sleep without crazy, vivid dreams. To wake up in the morning without a tight ball of anxiety in my chest or stomach area. To even get through a day without feeling that fear and exhaustion.
Every morning it’s a struggle to get out of bed. To motivate me into doing some yoga, make a cup of tea, even to get ready takes a lot of willpower. The only times in my life where I can do all of this like a normal person is when I travel or go on holiday because it’s something I love and have confidence in. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen when I travel, it’s just slightly more under control.
Keeping up appearances
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still fall apart if things don’t go to plan because I have to have structure. It’s the one coping mechanism that makes me feel in control. Without the huge backstory that is my life prior to leaving the UK, understanding my mental health might be difficult. The condensed version is a lot of shit happened. I grew up fast but never looked after myself the way I should have.
So, all this life experience and living with anxiety and depression is something that makes me empathetic and hopefully a solid human being. However, it also makes me appear tardy and unpredictable. I’m sure nobody thinks I’m very “together”.
Why teach then?
All I’ve ever wanted to do in life is to do something that helps others. I also want to travel, have experiences with the people who matter, love/be loved and rock out to my favourite bands. None of these things makes me feel like a nervous wreck, they make me feel normal and dare I say, happy!
Teaching English as we do now has been a real test of my condition. I’ve had to face criticism, been so out of my comfort zone, do classes in front of people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve broken down on several occasions in my own time, but I’ve dealt with so much more than I ever thought possible.
Part of the reason for teaching is to travel, the thing that brings me joy. I’ve certainly enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it really must be the right fit for you. I think ultimately, I’ll have another career someday. But it’s been an important step towards self-discipline and wrestling my pesky anxiety demons.
The reason I teach is practical. The reason I continue to work as a teacher is also that it’s a small joy imparting knowledge when it’s all going well.
In my short time as a teacher, I’ve experienced all kinds of tantrums, laughter, attitude but also lots of fun and games. It’s been tough, but it’s also been enlightening, and I don’t regret doing it.
What about panic attacks?
I think the biggest fear is the thought of having a panic attack at any time but also during teaching time if something goes wrong.
Since the age of 14, I’ve suffered from panic attacks. I used to have agoraphobia (fear of open spaces and crowded spaces) but with cognitive behavioural therapy, I got better.
They are less and less frequent now. I once had one in a job interview when I was in my last year of university which was most embarrassing.
Mostly when this faux heart attack happens for me it’s when I’m under immense pressure. Job interviews, being fired, break ups, terrible news, criticism, plans going awry. These are all triggers. I used to just have them from going outside so it’s a huge improvement!
I have been in very stressful situations at work in the last two years and during classes, but I’ve held it together. I might fall apart at home but somewhere, somehow, I’ve learned to keep my head high and believe in myself when I need to.
I haven’t experienced the dreaded panic attack in class. Even though I thought it would happen! This is just another reason why this job has improved the way my mind is wired.
Do you have it together?
I may not have my life mapped out or know what I want to do post-travel/teaching and living around the world. Maybe that’ll never stop.
What I do know is I have beautiful friends, I’m loved by a wonderful (if a little crazy guy), my family are always there for me and I have freedom. No, I’m not a proper adult with a mortgage, a husband, kids etc but I’m embarking on a new career. It challenges my anxiety in a productive way and helps to fulfil those aspirations.
If you’re looking for help, please reach out.
Mind also operates an immediate helpline, just follow the link.