teachers with depression and anxiety

Discussion in 'General Education' started by magister, Jul 18, 2014.

  1. magister

    magister Rookie

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    Jul 18, 2014

    Hi,
    Does anyone else here have, or know, any other teachers who struggle w/depression and anxiety? I do, and they've created a lot of problems for me. It's hard getting up and preparing for each day while your stomach is upset, you feel lousy and irritable. I want to do my best at school but the stress and physical symptoms keep me down. Many times I've taught while having a low-grade headache, chills, and upset stomach. It wears me down and has made me consider looking into a career change.

    For now I'm looking into teaching jobs since my last one was a one-year position, but I'm hesitant about it. I would appreciate anyone here who could comment on this issue and how to deal with it (I think it's more prevalent among teachers than people care to admit). Thank you.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jul 18, 2014

    Have you seen a doctor? Do you take medication?
     
  4. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Jul 18, 2014

    Have you only worked in one school?
    A change in schools can sometimes make a world of difference.
     
  5. missrebecca

    missrebecca Comrade

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    Jul 18, 2014

    Have you thought about the factors contributing to your depression/anxiety? Have you thought about what you can/can't control, and tried to fix it? If you have an idea of what your problems are, that's a huge step in resolving them.

    Are you eating well? This can have a STRONG impact on the way you feel. If you're not sure, you might want to record what you're eating on something like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer, and see if you're getting a good ratio of carbs, fats, and protein. For example, too many carbs or too little fat/protein can make you sluggish (I had this problem unknowingly for years, and felt much better when I changed my diet). If you're eating fast food or junk food frequently, try cutting it out for a while and see how you feel.

    Are you exercising? They say the body is the unconscious mind, and exercise releases feel-good hormones in the brain. Sitting or hunching over a computer can be very bad for your back, neck, and body in general. Simple things like going for a walk or doing short bursts of exercise throughout the day can be very good for your health.

    Do you have a good support system? Do you spend time with friends, family, etc.? Does anyone else know what you're going through?

    Are you organized? Do your like the look and feel of your home and workspace, or is it a source of negativity? This may sound silly, but your environment really can change the way you feel.

    I've had depression/anxiety for a long time, and I've found eating right/exercising/being around positive people to be really helpful. I also take some vitamins every few days like B12 and magnesium that *really* help my mood (if you do this, make sure they're high quality with no food coloring or additives). And I avoid foods that I know affect me badly, like caffeine, added sugar, artificial food coloring, MSG, and coconut oil/mct oil (gives some people heart palpitations).

    Hope this is helpful. Sorry you're going through a rough time! I just finished my first semester of teaching, and experienced the same feelings you mentioned. It was incredibly difficult. I found a new job, and am optimistic about the future, but I know I'm going to have to work at it.
     
  6. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    Jul 18, 2014

    I'm not by nature a very anxious person, but my first year teaching I felt nauseous every morning as I drove into work. Once my day started it got a bit better, but then right before my toughest class it would come back.

    My second year, I rarely felt sick in the morning, but often did right before my toughest class.

    This past year, I almost never had that feeling.

    I didn't go that route, but going to your doctor and getting something to relieve your anxiety might help you get through the worst days for these first few years. I do think these sorts of issues generally improve after a couple of years.

    Good luck.
     
  7. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I take medication to take the edge off my high-strung nature. I think. I've was more hormonal than job-related. The medicine still makes it better.
     
  8. magister

    magister Rookie

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    I take meds and see a therapist (actually, one med) but mostly my teaching experiences have been rough. I've had one formal and two support teaching jobs in the past five years. The formal job stopped because the school closed, and it was not a good school (it was parochial). The other two were year-long only positions. Unfortunately I have what is called generalized anxiety disorder. If you don't have it, thank the gods because it will make your world very small. Almost every day is a day of worry and negative thinking.
     
  9. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I'm sorry to hear that you have that. :(

    I definitely felt anxiety about teaching most of my first year, less so my second year, but nothing probably to the degree of needing medication.

    If I were you I would think about maybe a really well-to-do school which might be known for its lack of behavior problems and high parent involvement (though that might lead to other anxieties). I think missrebecca has some great advice. Eating well and getting enough rest goes miles towards making me feel more comfortable in the classroom.
     
  10. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Anxiety is no fun, especially in a career as stressful as teaching. When you pile on the changes in curriculum due to Common Core, class management, and being new, it's even harder. :hugs: My heart goes out to you because even though I never had nausea or fever, I have had times when my anxiety snowballed and made me feel paralyzed by fear.

    Here are some things I do/have done that help with my anxiety:

    1. Planning/Being Prepared for the Day: It sounds so simple, but when I don't have myself together, it makes my anxiety worse. So I lay out my clothes, take a shower and pack my lunch the night before. I try to get to work a little early so I can have quiet time (without the kids or my teammates) to sit at my desk, drink my tea, breathe and look over my lesson plan book. Then I take down the chairs, write out the date, put graded papers in cubbies and make a pile on my desk of all the hand-outs for the day so I know where they are. Having a routine makes me feel calm and in control.

    2. Taking deep breaths: When I feel myself about to flip out on the class, or drowning in anxiety, I take a deep breath. For instance, if a kid is unruly, I force myself to take a breath, then I try to rewind to how I felt before they made me angry. It works for me.

    3. Talking it out: I used to bottle up my feelings until I exploded. Now I talk to my mom, husband, non-teacher friends, a trusted few coworkers, and of course my beloved A to Z community (when it's super personal I private message people)

    4. Talking to a Therapist: I've tried therapy off and on since I was 18 and I was always told the same things, "You worry too much. Stop worrying and you'll be fine." or "You're so tense and anxious." I was even told "You have low self esteem. Start being more positive and you'll feel fine."

    None of that advice was helpful, hence why I would stop going after a few months. Most recently, I decided to give therapy another shot and I absolutely LOVE my new therapist. She's given me an exercise that has been really helpful. I can give you more details in a PM if you want, but it's a great behavior modification that is teaching me to cope with stress and anxiety

    5. Eating a good diet: I'm a stress eater who used to gorge on McDonald's, Chipotle, pizza, burgers, chips, cookies, etc. And I found I had low energy, a decreased threshold for stress, and I was ALWAYS sick. Like I'd get at least 10 colds a school year and they'd drag on for weeks. I've since improved my diet, and in addition to dropping weight, my hair, skin and nails look better, I have more energy and I just feel better all around.

    6. Music: I have several go-to songs that helps decrease my anxiety and stress level. Right now "Ain't it Fun" by Paramore is at the top of my list. I LOVE the lyrics and the beat.

    It's not a cure, but it forces me to focus on something other than my anxious thoughts, which gives my brain enough time to kick start my coping hormone so I can claw my way back up out of the depths of my worries/fears.

    :hugs: Hang in there!
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    I went on anxiety and sleeping medication during the 12-13 school year when I was working in an absolutely horrible environment. I also felt sick going into work every morning, and would start to get physical symptoms on Sunday nights anticipating the next week of school. It helped a lot to have the meds. I now work in a much better school, and went off both meds with no problems about six months ago.
     
  12. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I am affected greatly by my work environment. I have struggled with bouts of anxiety/depression in the past, mostly related to being somewhere I just hated being for some reason or another. I don't think it's related to any profession in particular, but rather a bad boss or just work duties I hated. I try to listen to my gut instincts more now when choosing new jobs. I also know cold, gray weather effects me more than most, so I am excited to be moving somewhere sunnier soon. Anyway, what it boils down to for me is recognizing when I am growing unhappy, and spending time thinking about what self care will help me feel better. Easier said than done, but I think knowing yourself and your patterns is important.
     
  13. magister

    magister Rookie

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    Jul 19, 2014

    Thanks for the replies, especially Em_Catz. I like your idea of breathing before letting the kids get to you. I've had a problem dealing w/disruptive kids and not knowing how to treat them. My diet is good. I eat low sugar foods and exercise, do yoga 2x/week, and meditate almost every day.

    I guess the thing most troubling for me is I've never felt prepared to teach. I did an internship and student teaching but not enough to gain a lot of experience and confidence. Colleges teaching programs should have students do lots of lesson and unit planning, especially differentiation. New teachers get tossed in the ocean and are expected to figure it out.
     
  14. bros

    bros Phenom

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    If cold/gray weather gets you down, have you tried finding a therapist that does light therapy? You could have seasonal affective disorder.
     
  15. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    :thumb:

    Those SAD natural-light lights work great! You can buy them for around $40 if you find one on sale.
     
  16. magister

    magister Rookie

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    I don't have SAD. In fact, I like all the seasons. My problem is, and always has been, depression and anxiety. When I teach, I get very controlling, like everything has to run perfectly. It's hard to relax but when you teach, who can relax? There's so much to do.
     
  17. kab164

    kab164 Companion

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    I am sorry to hear that. I have family members who have had anxiety, it's so hard. I don't suffer from that but I live in a dark climate and have seasonal affective disorder. What has helped me the most is consistently taking vitamin D. It helps both my mood and my energy. When my level gets low, I am exhausted. Best of luck. If you haven't ever had your vitamin D checked, you should. Can make a huge difference
     
  18. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Perhaps it is time to consider a different medication. If the one you're on isn't working for you, then you might need something different.
     
  19. magister

    magister Rookie

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    I've tried more meds than I can remember. It's an issue of dealing with problems through cognitive therapy and taking risks. Pills can give you a push but then you have to move on your own. I never assume any pill will snap me out of this. It's a dangerous assumption.

    Maybe this isn't the career for me but I won't give up on it yet. There is a place for me somewhere.
     
  20. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    There are some great paying positions for online teachers and licensed teachers as tutors. Maybe those would be less stressful. I talked to K12 and Connections Academy, both online schools, and they seemed like they would be good opportunities to teach but not deal with as many behavior issues, if those interest you.
     
  21. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    For some people, yes. For others, issues like this are the result of chemical imbalances and can be completely addressed by the right medicine.
     
  22. magister

    magister Rookie

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    Trust me, Caesar. You name the pill, I've tried it. I could probably work for the pharmaceuticals industry at this point since I know so much about the stuff.
     
  23. Geauxtee

    Geauxtee Comrade

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    I have dealt with depression and anxiety since college. I'm on a SSRI now and it's helped.

    Like others have said, eating better, working out and avoiding caffeine/alcohol if possible. Those are really cliche but they do work :).

    Avoid negative colleagues, because they are never happy and will bring you down.

    My therapist has helped me a lot too.
     
  24. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    I do suffer from both, though I've managed to get both under control.

    The most important thing for me, in controlling my anxiety, was learning to let go. I always wanted everything to be perfect, and I'm a little obsessive about scheduling my time. The thing is, as a teacher, it's not just my day, but there's 130 kids also having a day, not to mention all of the other adults on campus. There's gonna be an email, a drop by during planning, a meltdown in class, a meeting added, a phone call - something. You have to take a deep breath and roll with it.

    Most people aren't the best. Teacher. EVER. right out of the gates. It takes time to be fully comfortable delivering instruction and running a classroom. I think most people on here say it took them three years. You have to try new things, rework old things, and fail a few times. It is part of the process.

    As much as possible, you need to avoid the Debbie Downers at work. You need to make sure you're not a Debbie Downer. Avoid the gripe sessions. Talk about a show, books, movies. Find a really positive person on campus and ask them for help and advice when you need it. (This was hardest for me, as my partner for the last few years was one of the most negative people on campus. I just limited my contact with them to the absolute bare minimum to get the job done.)

    Scents help me. Certain ones trigger positive feelings. Laavander is calming but makes me sleepy; peppermint makes me happy but hyper; citrus scents are my happy place. So I wear a citrus-based perfume every day and eat an orange at lunch.

    Finally - everyone else's advice is spot on. Eat right. Exercise. Take time for yourself every day. Practice positive thinking. Look into a different medication - new things are coming out all the time.
     
  25. mazzystar

    mazzystar Rookie

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    Your advice is awesome. Not only should we prep for lessons, but some of us should prep for dealing with the stresses of teaching. Thanks! :)
     
  26. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Aw, no problem. All jobs are stressful, but teaching is one of those professions where I feel like you have to give it 110% and be "on" 99.9% of the time. I was at my breaking point when I joined A to Z four years ago and everyone's helped me so much so I want to do the same.
    I'm glad to help Magister! Sorry for the late reply, I've been out of town (actually I'm still out of town, but everyone's asleep right now so I'm enjoying the quiet :cool:). I'm glad to hear you're eating a good diet and taking quiet time to meditate.

    I know this may not seem helpful to hear, but I don't think anyone is ever really ready to teach. This is my 8th year and I honestly don't feel like I really "got it" until around Year Four. That's not to say that the other years were terrible, I just had a bit of a learning curve.

    I think when I came to accept that it was going to take some time, it helped my anxiety. Medication can be a great tool, but you're right, it's not a cure all.

    I feel like it works best when combined with psychotherapy. Maybe with both you'll in time be able to wean off medication (should you decide to go that route) or go down to a lower dosage.

    I know we're all online, but please, reach out to me and the other A to Z community for support and advice throughout the year
     
  27. Organic Poppy

    Organic Poppy Rookie

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    I do great at school and turn into a puddle of exhausted emotion when I get home. My son died in 2012 and my daughter was born still in Feb of this year. I haven't had a "good" year in a while, but you would never know it seeing me at school..

    You have to enjoy what you do. Make it fun for yourself. I have to be excited about what I am doing or I would quit. Every year I put on a big Christmas performance for the first grade. Some teachers don't want to do it this year and the principal doesn't want to give me the stage since it will just be my class, but I am doing it even if I have to put it on in the parking lot. It is one thing that I absolutely love doing. I would be miserable from Thanksgiving on if they took that away from me. In my class we do a lot of hands on activities, crafts, videos, performances, etc. That is how I keep myself sane. I can appreciated a good practice sheet, especially on days it is hard to keep my head up, but if I didn't do something fun I'd never make it.
     
  28. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    Hugs to you, Organic Poppy, to keep going in the wake of such devastating losses. It sounds like you are a great teacher, and your students are lucky to have someone who gives them so many fun activities.
     
  29. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    :hugs: I'm sorry you've been through so much and I think you're an awesome person for taking a tragedy and turning it into something positive. You're a blessing to your students and I pray that your heart's desires will be fullfilled
     
  30. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    OrganicPoppy, you are a brave person for being able to go forward with what you have been through. I used to teach with someone who lost her daughter and who said teaching was what kept her going, and I hope in some way that is true for you, too. I am sure your students love you and I hope you have your Christmas play for years to come, even if it takes place in the parking lot! :hugs:
     
  31. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    I agree with your quote included above. I too an alternative route to get my teaching credentials and earned many credits based on experience portfolios and SAT scores from a billion years ago. I spent my first year as a licensed teacher doing several long term subs and many per diem subs. I counsel my practicum students to consider, if they can afford it, to take long term sub positions the first year. It allowed me to have all the responsibilities of teaching, without the year commitment. I got to spend time in several schools which helped me determine where I'd like to work, what kind of P fit my personality the best, how other teachers set up, maintain their classrooms. It was like teaching with training wheels. More than student teaching, but less than having your own class.

    I have fought depression since my teen years and have been on a medication for the last 22 years. I had never had anxiety issues until a few years ago. I'd had a tough year including having a student who went out of his way to disrupt class and challenge me every day! He was very charismatic, and actually incited other kids who would not have acted out otherwise. He argued with everything I said or did. I had many kids talk to me and tell me that I was a great teacher, ask if they could be seated far from him. They helped me make it through. Long story a bit shorter - I was having anxiety attacks the weeks just prior to the next school year starting. My doctor prescribed a low dose anti-anxiety med to take before bed. I still take it. What a blessing!

    With all that is going on in the world, the increased load of requirements that weigh us down without having resources to help, the lack of parental involvement in so many of our kids' lives, as well as the chaotic lives so many kids have to cope with, it is no surprise that many of us suffer from anxiety.

    I want to thank you for bringing up this topic because I think many of us hide this part of our lives. It is amazing how many of us are in the same boat to one degree or another. I would guess that we teachers feel we have to be more perfect than other professionals in all we do and feel, which just adds more anxiety.
     
  32. EmptyClassroom

    EmptyClassroom Rookie

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    Jul 25, 2014

    I SO empathize. My personal manifestation is different--I'm at my best in class with my kids, but a total wreck in professional (aka, meeting, PD, administrative/peer) settings. I finally found a therapist who truly listened to me and met my needs, but it was a long journey and one I still don't share with many of my family or co-workers. Still, I've been in this profession for 20 years because it's where I'm supposed to be, and if that level of anxiety and these bouts of depression are the cost, I guess I'll accept it. When I'm teaching, I'm in this zone that can't be met through any other work-related activity; on top of that, I'm lucky enough to stay in touch with some of my students due to living in a small community, and I now not only have second-generation students, but allies and friends that know first-hand my dedication to my students. Is it hard to work in this job with the anxiety and depression that not only contributes, but often causes it? You betcha! Is it worth it? If it's your destiny--you better believe it! My advice, if you want to stick with the education profession, is to focus on what you love, why you do it, and where you're meant to be; use whatever you have available in your arsenal (medication, therapy, yoga, religion, etc.) to combat the rest! Good luck and don't let what you feel you can't do impact what you can!
     

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