Back to school anxiety – How to Beat it!

Back to School with a bump!

Returning to teaching after the holiday can be devastating for even the most organised professional as back to school anxiety creeps in. Your body is out-of-sync and the realities of juggling school-runs, lunch-prep and commuting start to creep back into your subconscious. This is stressful enough without the anxiety that you haven’t done all of the preperation you promised you would and that stack of marking hasn’t moved since you placed it on the floor a few weeks ago. Ugh! I feel your pain. It didn’t matter how excited I was to see my pupils and colleagues again, the last few days of any long holiday would see me turn in to a ball of anxiety. I would panic about planning and marking, data I hadn’t reviewed and meetings on my agenda. I would worry about that Year 9 class that have an upcoming exam they won’t have revised for. I would turn in to a barely-communicative shell and was probably a pretty crap person to be around. Sound familiar?

You are not alone!

A quick scan of Twitter or any social media platform where educators roam and you will see posts with #backtoschool that alternate between excitement and utter despair. When I look at the statistics for this website the number of visitors soar at resignation dates and the last few days of school holidays. Firstly, if your mental health is at risk you should use the last few days of holiday to seek support.

Mind is a good place to start your journey to recovery but also seek guidance from your GP.

Back to school anxiety is commonplace and nothing to be ashamed of. If your worries are less urgent you can reach out to me with a Twitter DM. Just a quick hello can sometimes make all the difference.

Back to school anxiety – Stop it today!

You’ve sought the help you need from professionals and want to stop this happening again? Fantastic! First you need to identify why you are worried about returning:

  • Just generally nerves but the job is ok?
  • You hate the role you have?
  • You haven’t prepared well enough?
  • You don’t like the school?
  • A specific toxic relationship at work?
  • Financial worries?
  • Personal worries?

The cause of your anxiety might be one of these or something else, either way you need to try and recognise the issue and then identify your control over it. There are some factors that are simply outside of your range of control and whilst we can be nervous about these we can benefit from accepting our lack of influence on certain aspects of our lives. If you are reading this post in the last couple of days of the school holiday there is likely only time for a couple of things. So some practical advice:

  1. If you feel unprepared, just accept you only have time to do so much. Perhaps you wanted to get the new Scheme of Work sorted and have the Resources uploaded ready for teaching? You can rush it now or you can accept it isn’t done and make a plan to move forward. Be clear with yourself; this was a holiday, not admin time, and in another profession, you would be expected to relax and recover during the holidays rather than plan 3 months of work. I wouldn’t expect you to have completed any work over the holidays and it’s likely you know what is being taught in the first week so take the pressure off yourself. What would be a bonus? Those essays that need SPAG marking? The Year 9 mock paper? Find a couple of hours and tick off one job. Trust me, it will be better than trying to do everything and actually getting nothing done well.
  2. If you don’t like the role/school/relationships it might be time to consider planning to leave. I felt an enormous sense of relief when I simply admitted I wasn’t happy in my job and told my family I wanted to find a different role. I used the last couple of days of one school holiday to think about what I might want to do next and update my CV. I was able to return to work feeling like I had a direction, albeit the exit door, which completely removed my anxiety as I knew I was taking steps to leave a bad environment rather than simply worrying about being in one. As a caveat, you may love the school but not the role – explain this to your line manager and ask for advice about possible opportunities to explore a new role in the school. If you don’t feel empowered or safe to have this conversation – You are not in a good environment!
  3. If you have financial worries you should take time to budget and seek expert help. 10 minutes using the tools on StepChange and you will feel more secure about how to sort out your bank accounts, debt etc.
  4. If you have anxiety stemming from personal issues then this is more difficult for me to pinpoint help but there will be support for you. I would always advise speaking to your GP when you are not sure who else will listen. They can signpost you to other agencies that might offer more focussed support and obviously act confidentially. They can also support with ongoing anxiety and mental health challenges. It’s true that they have “heard it all before”!

Stop Panic Attacks and calm down

This is a useful video if you suffer from panic attacks or just need a way to calm down. It demonstrates a quick way to pull yourself out of panic or anxiety attack as they start to manifest.

Remember this

Back to school anxiety plagues the profession. You are not alone, not even in your department. Until more is done to support the wellbeing of teachers then you should remember:

  • Returning to work already burnt out is a recipe for disaster.
  • You have been on holiday not ‘working from home’ for a few weeks.
  • A fair employer would not expect you to work during your holiday.
  • You can only do so much.
  • Not everything is within your control.
  • There is always someone to talk to.

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