Emma* contacted Jigsaw about four months before her Leaving Cert exams. She had been feeling anxious for a while, but in the last few weeks she’d had two panic attacks. Her main worry was that she’d get a panic attack in an exam. “I have to get rid of this anxiety now”, she told the clinician, “before my mocks”.
Identifying triggers for stress
Emma’s clinician wanted to know more about the anxiety and panic attacks. When did they happen? Was there a trigger? They discovered that Emma’s panic attacks happened just after Emma’s teachers mentioned study plans or expected study hours in class. When her history teacher said “you all should have covered this section in your revision plan already”, Emma felt her heart beating fast and chest getting tight. She rushed to the toilet because she felt she couldn’t breathe, and barely remembers the rest of the day.
The Jigsaw Clinician helped Emma realise her panic attacks were connected to the worry that she was so far behind on study that she’d never be able to catch up. This was connected to a deeper worry that she would fail her exams, be unable to get into college or ever get a job, and be a “complete failure” in life. The Jigsaw Clinician asked her to take a step back, look at the facts and be realistic about what could happen. They discussed strategies for managing exam stress.