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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Stress and anxiety: my top five tips for coping

You may not want to take advice from someone who regularly struggles, but then again, I struggle and I'm still here so maybe I do know something about it :)

Here are my top five tips:

  • Don't neglect yourself. You may be busy and annoyed with yourself for 'wasting time' by worrying, fretting or endlessly googling worst-case-scenarios (or maybe that's just me...), but you still need the time to calm down and look after yourself. Clearly, in fact, you need that time more than when you're not in an anxiety spiral. A walk, a jog, a hot bath - whatever does it for you, allow yourself that time. I would also recommend the positive to-do list, which we used last summer holidays to great effect. Basically, you make a list of things you want to do (kind of like a bucket list, or a before-a-certain-age list) to remind you when you're at a loose end or have some spare time/cash to play with.
  • Complementary therapies. As mentioned here before, I love aromatherapy (I have citrus and spice oils on my pulse points to help me focus), but I have also benefited from nice calming herbal tea (chamomile and spiced apple is a favourite) and creative visualisation (pushing worries into a box which you then lock up can be helpful, as well as the old 'happy place').
  • Break down your to-do list. Yes, this will make it longer, but it also allows you to cross off a bit at a time of a big job. For example, with a recent writing job, I've made a massive grid listing the sub-topics I'm covering with columns for each labelled 'planned', 'started', 'drafted', 'revised, 'submitted', 'feedback received' etc. Don't snigger; it helps and it's clearly not fully obsessive as it isn't colour-coded :)
  • Use a timer. I generally work in 15 minute chunks, although often I'm resetting the timer for another 15 minutes once I've got going. Just committing to 15 minutes at a time really does work.
  • Try a gratitude practice. I know, I know, but it really is very encouraging to think about all the reasons you have to be grateful. I also use this basic positive statement idea to remind myself of past accomplishments when I'm busy freaking out that I can't do what I've set out to do. (Don't tell anyone, but sometimes an "I know I can do this because..." list is stuck up above my desk, including examples of things I've done and should be proud of and nice things people have said/emailed to me like positive comments on my work. I know, but sometimes I need these reminders.)

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