I wanted to share my experience with people because I think support is vital. Sharing and knowing that you are not alone, not going crazy and that it is just a build up of stress for whatever reason that has caused your body to react this way, not your mental stability, gives reassurance and comfort. Your body can only handle so much stress on a n ongoing basis and though you may not have realised it, your body could have been taking this on over a period of time and dealing with it just fine.
Most of my stress came from my job and over a period of 18 months it took it's toll on me. I work in a secondary school as a Cover Supervisor, supervising work set by subject teachers in their absence, with 11-16 yr olds. Cover Supervisors have replaced supply teachers as permanent members of staff within schools as they cost a lot less. So, yes I get paid, I think very little, for the job I do. The biggest part of my job is behaviour management and explaining the set work to the students. Although teaching the subject is not part of my remit, more often than not the expectation is to help answer students questions, so a very good all-round academic knowledge is really important in core subjects. I am also highly creative, so this means I can be more involved and helpful in creative subjects too. So you could say I am pretty much a 'Jack-of-all-Trades' when it comes to my role.
Everyday I go in to work, no idea what subjects I might be covering, what year groups or students I might have... in fact it is a bit like a lottery! Sometimes I don't mind the variety that gives, but sometimes I long for some predictability in my day and not having to think on my feet constantly! I can't plan anything for a lesson or rarely have any prior knowledge of the work set. Therefore, I am at the mercy of whatever work has been set by that subject teacher! It is literally a matter of 'think on your feet' in every aspect of classroom management!
As you can imagine it is demanding and mentally draining at times! So here is where the stress initiates for me. Of course, then I have my own family to go home and deal with at the end of the day. there are parts of my job I enjoy. There are some nice kids who you get to know and have positive, productive school relationships with. Showing an interest in them and sometimes helping them with there issues at school and then go to achieve great things can be highly rewarding and for me is the reason in stay in my job.The school I work at is a very good school but unfortunately, as everywhere kids today are brought up differently, have different attitudes and the power to manage behaviour in schools is limited with ever-changing policy and quite often no support from parents/carers...so a challenging task!! The downside is I can't get to know the kids the way their subject teachers do, so my involvement is therefore limited and the satisfaction and reward minimal. I digress, my 'panic attacks' as |I mentioned earlier started after 18 months into my job. I saw my doctor, tried various medications to help with sleep and calm me down but nothing really dealt with the problem because the problem wasn't going to go away.
So, through Occupational Therapy at work, I was given a week off. I decided that I would take time just to focus on coping with my panic attacks. I found the following techniques helped me tremendously at the time:
* Slowing down my breathing by focusing on the rythmn and depth. This consequently then had an effect on reducing my heart rate and that horrible panic 'fight or flight' feeling. It takes at least 5-10 minutes for this to take effect but it does work. Apparently, the way it works is that although you cannot slow your heart rate down yourself you can physically control or slow your breathing and this in turn has the effect of slowing your heart.
* The other thing I did in conjunction with the breathing technique was to think of something soothing and calming eg. I thought of the calming image of the Agean Sea and it's beautiful crystal turquoise colour waters, and floating in it. The two hand-in-hand work really well and I recommend trying. Don't expect instant results, as I said it can take anything from 5 to 10 minutes to take effect but persevere, it can really make a difference and can be used anytime you feel an attack coming on.
* Make a concerted effort to focus on the positive and precious things in your life and value them. It is all to easy to get caught up in negativity and Pa's have a disastrous effect of making you feel you are no longer in control, but believe me you can regain that control and when you eventually do come out the other side you can feel proud that you did deal with it, and stronger too. Although initially you still feel drained from the whole ordeal you will get there. Just don't be too hard on yourself, congratulate yourself when you make small positive steps and gradually you will see that the PA's are no longer part of your life. I remember suddenly realising that I hadn't had one for over a week!! They can go away just as quickly as they appeared.
* Find a focus, a new hobby, interest or activity that takes your mind off the negative effect of PA's. Many people find that a physical activity, and that can be even just walking or gardening but something physically active can burn off the excessive adrenaline in your body which in turn stops it giving you those horrible panic symptoms.
* Finally, remember...small steps...talk to someone about how you're feeling don't keep it bottled up. You are NOT ALONE. Sharing it with someone else can really lift a huge weight and you'll be surprised how many other people you know actually have been through exactly the same thing.
I hope my experiences and technique's might help others. Please, let me know if they do or if you have anything that has helped you to deal with PAs and you'd like to share here.