Panic attacks, stress and anxiety were all taking a toll on 25-year-old Rebecca, who was close to burnout. Rebecca, from Cleveland, was working in the justice sector, giving financial and debt management advice to prisoners and people on probation. She also had a weekend job in a beauty spa, and felt she had no time or energy left for herself.
Rebecca reached out to Able Futures, who deliver the Access To Work Mental Health Support Service, to receive support with her mental health. Under the scheme, participants are assigned a mental health expert; a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant (VRC). Rebecca’s VRC Janet was on hand to provide nine months of tailored, sympathetic support to help her develop coping strategies. “Janet was brilliant throughout,” says Rebecca. “She explained the process and asked me what I wanted it to cover. She held a review at the beginning, middle and end to see how I was feeling throughout the programme.”
Working in a prison, Rebecca came across serious issues such as suicide, self-harm, and substance misuse. It was the spa job, however, that, left her exhausted. “It was physically demanding because I was working 40-plus hours a week in my justice job and then I was expected to provide a five-star service at the spa, giving massages,” she says. “During my time with Able Futures, I had two bereavements which led to a massive decline in my mental health. Janet was always there and I knew she understood what I was going through.”
Janet recommended Rebecca try journaling to reflect on her feelings. She encouraged her to be kinder to herself, and to avoid negative self-talk. Janet and Rebecca looked at the Five Ways to Wellbeing, which are steps everyone can take to improve their health. One of these is ‘be active’, and Rebecca took this on board by running a half-marathon! “I thought I hadn’t trained enough but I did it and defeated the odds, and that had a massive effect,” she says. Janet also helped Rebecca identify how much influence she had over her worries, using the Circles of Control model. “It was really helpful because I was worrying about everything, and now I can identify whether I can change it or not.”
Leaving the spa job was Rebecca's first step to developing a work-life balance. “I feel a thousand times better since I left, it’s had a massive positive impact. Working six days a week when I’ve got a house to run, a partner, and friends to see, it just wasn’t doable, it meant I couldn’t go out. Now I can do what I want with my weekends.”
As for the panic attacks, they are now under control. Rebecca says they tend to start when she is not busy but feeling tired or exhausted. “My palms start sweating, my heart races and my mind overloads, but in the last few months I’ve managed to diminish that. Now whenever I feel a panic attack coming on, I say to myself ‘I’m not thinking about this’ and I just stop. I live with my partner and he said he can see an improvement, it’s really good.”
All this means Rebecca can now focus on excelling in her career. What’s more, her hard work is being recognised, with a promotion in the pipeline. We wish her the best of luck!