This therapeutic story focuses on intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviour, linked to exam anxiety. Everyone knows Gemma always gets thing 'right' and is top of the class. However she feels under pressure to do well in the Year 5 tests and is becoming increasingly worried. She thinks she has to do certain things to continue to do well and get 'top marks', such as avoiding the cracks in the pavement. This habit starts to take over and Gemma wonders why she is doing this.
As the story progresses, Gemma is helped to understand how it can be normal for anxiety and stress to affect thoughts. The metaphor of having a bully in her mind, making her do things she doesn't really want to do, is introduced. She decides to stand up to her inner bully before it takes over. The accompanying, 'Let's talk about when thoughts get stuck' highlights how stress and pressure can affect us, including some of the 'catastrophising' and 'black and white' thinking errors that can be linked with exam stress and pressure.
Paula Nagel has worked as an educational psychologist for 17 years. This has included working as a Lead Professional Educational Psychologist managing a traded service, as well as holding Senior Specialist posts for early years and disability. Over the years Paula has worked in multi-agency teams within paediatric services, youth offending teams, Sure Start and an anti-bullying service. She is currently Principal Educational Psychologist (North) for the national children's mental health charity, Place2Be. Before qualifying as an Educational Psychologist Paula was a primary school teacher.
Gary Bainbridge is an artist, comics creator and secondary school Art, Photography and Media Studies teacher from Durham. He's best known for the North East based kitchen sink superhero comic Sugar Glider and the Newcastle-set crime fiction comic, Nightbus. Gary teaches at an academy in Northumberland.