Being a teacher can be challenging – each day could involve any number of unexpected problems to solve. For Eleanor, who’s autistic, it wasn’t easy managing everything she needed to juggle at work.
When she was recommended Brain in Hand through Access to Work, Eleanor thought it seemed like something that could help her manage her time, remember all the things she needed to talk to people about, and hopefully reduce her anxiety. She hoped it would help relieve some of the pressure that unexpected situations could cause, taking some of the mental load and helping her feel more in control.
Her initial sessions with a coach helped her get to grips with how she might use Brain in Hand – it wasn’t just about explaining what the features did, but about coming up with real examples to help make it easy to understand. It’s not always easy to think about what you need, Eleanor says; when people ask how they can help or what she needs, she often finds that she freezes and can’t think of an answer. Going through real-life examples of things she needed to do, though, meant that she and her coach could think of how Brain in Hand could help in a way that was personal to her.
Eleanor might have been planning to use Brain in Hand mostly to help her with work, but it’s had an unexpected side benefit: around the time she got started with BiH, she found out she was pregnant. Now she didn’t just have to take care of herself, but another person too.
“I definitely felt that the mental load was quite overwhelming,” Eleanor says, reflecting on when her daughter was a newborn. “I’m not just organising myself, I’m organising everything for my baby, so I was struggling to keep on top of everything. And then, once I returned to work part-time, managing both my work life and home life was quite a challenge.”
In that moment, I’ve got high anxiety, high stress, and I’m not thinking straight. But being able to go into Brain in Hand and just go, right, one, two, three done, it just takes that pressure off. I can fully expect that if I didn’t have that, I’d just completely freeze.
When her daughter’s nursery called to say Eleanor needed to come and pick her baby up, she simply looked at Brain in Hand to see the saved number she needed to call, the jobs she needed to do before she could leave, and the things she’d need to take.
Eleanor didn’t just put in all her strategies once and leave it there. She realised that using Brain in Hand’s traffic lights to indicate how she was feeling could help her look at triggers for her anxiety. Being able to look back and see what was an issue – particularly around her baby daughter’s health – meant that she could focus on adding more strategies to help her in those situations.
Now she's going back to work, Eleanor says Brain in Hand has helped her manage the balance between her work and home lives. Maintaining routines and schedules is important for Eleanor, and Brain in Hand helps her manage both aspects of her life, giving her a structure so it's easier to switch between them.
If things get too difficult, Eleanor can ask for support any time she needs it. She’s only had to use it once, but she says she appreciated being able to get help via text at her own pace. It gave her reassurance and confidence that she was doing the right thing, and that if she needed more support she could always just get in touch again.
I think a big thing for me since having Brain in Hand is feeling more confident, both in work and being a mum. I’m more confident that if something does happen, I’m not just going to freeze and flounder. My baby depends on me to be in control and manage situations.
Eleanor says Brain in Hand has given her more independence, empowering her to deal with situations herself rather than putting them off or getting her partner to sort them for her. If she didn't have it, she says her anxiety would be a lot worse at home and at work - she would potentially have been unable to deal with situations because things would take longer to process and work through, making her more and more distressed. A lot of situations could have been ten times worse, she says, without Brain in Hand.
“I want to be a good role model for my daughter,” she says. “This is a way of doing that. I can show her that things are difficult, but that doesn’t need to stop her.”