How do we perceive stress in our lives: as major setbacks or moments of growth?
As we approach the end of Term and reach the half way point of the year it is a good time to stop and reflect. The last few weeks in particular have been very busy and at times “stressful”. Students have been completing formal exams and assessments and staff are very busy marking and finalising reports. These times of “stress” in our lives can be viewed in a number of ways, but at best we can be using these times to learn, utilise our best coping strategies and treat these times as moments of growth and formation of resilience.
Resilience is the ability to get back up after adversity and it is the word used globally amongst wellbeing experts as a key for positive mental health. Anecdotally, a lack of resilience, is a major factor in the growing mental health issues of young people in Australia. Fortunately we know that wellbeing is a skill that can be cultivated and trained. Building resilience is something that all individuals can work towards.
In September 2015 150 world leaders met at the UN Sustainable Development Summit. A key topic on the agenda was human wellbeing. Leaders identified the need for sustainable world development crucially depends on human flourishing as opposed to economic growth alone. Key speaker at this summit, Dr Richard Dawson highlighted four key human characteristics as essential for wellbeing:
- Sustained positive emotion
- Empathy and pro-social behaviour
- Mindful attention
The building of resilience is achievable. Due to the unpredictability of life, there will always be joys and sorrows. Resilient people are able to greet change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning and growth. Many psychologists have shown that resilience is best cultivated from WITHIN by how we perceive and then react to stressors. Mindfulness (seeing things as they are in this present moment), a skill we are often practising in lessons every day at SCM, plays a key role in building resilience. A recent study showed a link between mindfulness and resilience highlighting “Mindful people can better cope with difficult thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or shutting down. Pausing and observing the mind may help us resist getting stuck in our story and as a result empower us to move forward.
Difficult emotions such as fear or anger should not be seen as the enemy. It is reactivity towards these difficult emotions that are most harmful. Often when fear or anger are in place we revert to our “reptilian” brain and go into “Fight or Flight” response. Being able to be mindful of our emotions allows us to tap into our human or higher brain, see the bigger picture with calmness and clarity. Training our brains in a such way will allow us to “bounce back” from those bigger moments in life when things are not going well for us. For teenagers this can be on a daily basis, in their minds, and it is important they remain mindful, aware of their emotions so that they can bring themselves back to a natural state of wellbeing.
Nathan Beckett, Assistant Principal - Wellbeing