I have spoken to many families over the last couple of weeks concerned for their children for various reasons. It is hard not to be concerned. I am watching my own daughters and their mercurial mood shifts, and also wondering about the impact of this pandemic on their short and long term wellbeing. Then a niggling voice of truth resonates in my heart, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich). This is hope. With the love and support of family and friends the vast majority of us will come through with a renewed appreciation of the gifts and graces we have in our lives. When we carry an extra burden of stress and worry, it can be hard to focus on the positives, but gratitude for all that is good in our lives, is one of the protective factors for mental health and wellbeing. Practising gratitude each day so that it becomes habitual is something that we can do with our children as we support them in keeping our current circumstances in context. This does not mean that we do not attend to the issues and concerns – if they trust us enough to share what they are feeling, we must acknowledge that this is real for them. It does mean that the conversation needs to be well-rounded, acknowledging all that remains, as well as the fears for all that is/could be lost.
I have included the text from an article based on a TED Talk by Steven Kotler, that offers gratitude as one way to “put your brain in a good mood”:
What gets your brain fired up? Believe it or not, a good mood.
When you’re in a good mood, your brain is more sensitive to new ideas and more creative. The opposite is also true. A bad mood limits our brain to what we already know, the tried and the true, the logical and obvious. When we’re in a good mood, we feel safe and secure. We’re more willing to take risks. When we are in a bad mood, we stick with what we know.
How can we make sure we are in a good mood – most of the time? First of all, we need to find ways to increase our happiness. There are four sure-fire ways to make us happier: a daily gratitude practice, a daily mindfulness practice, regular exercise and a good night’s sleep.
Gratitude trains the brain to focus on the positive so we filter out negative thoughts.
Mindfulness teaches the brain to be calm and focused, giving our brain time and space for new thoughts and ideas. Take some time to be alone, with all devices switched off, spending quiet time.
Exercise lowers stress levels, increasing feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine. This lowers anxiety and improves our good mood.
A good night’s rest increases energy levels, giving us the ability to meet challenges. When we sleep, the brain has time to find all sorts of hidden connections between ideas.
Gratitude, mindfulness, exercise and sleep are essential for the good mood that leads to peak performance. When life gets complicated, concentrate on these to get your brain fit and ready to deal with problems.
Acknowledgement – TED, Steven Kotler in The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer.
Our partnership with Real Schools provides some great insights to support our staff and students to put our current situation into context. Here is a snippet shared by Adam Voigt, Founder and CEO of Real Schools.
“… if you’re currently teaching or leading in a school trapped in a lockdown, I wanted to spend this message encouraging you with the right words.
That’s my mission because I’d contend that some of the wrong words have been creeping into the public discourse about school closures in recent times – and I’d like to set the record straight.
I’m talking about the sudden horror at “days lost” when it comes to counting the toll of school closures on our kids’ educations.
Let’s be clear:
- Days attended is not the measure of an education. You don’t get an award at the end of Year 12 for merely turning up 25,278 of the possible 26,000 days in your school education. Days are not our currency – progress and growth is.
- Very few of (y)our students have lost any days at all. It’s not a day lost when a teacher busts a gut to teach a Microsoft Teams lesson to you, when a teacher connects you with classmates in a Zoom breakout room and when a teacher checks-in on your wellbeing. It’s just a day harder.
- The negative impacts of school closures, as real as they are, are not irretrievable. As much as these are not “days lost” they are also not “days unrecoverable”. In fact, we will most definitely help our kids recover and grow … that’s kind of our thing.
Let’s treat this disruption like getting out of shape (that’s relevant for me anyway as Netflix has replaced the gym and as Twisties have replaced carrot sticks).
When our students return full-time, they might not be in the best educational shape… but we can fix that. When it’s time, we’ll get them back on a nutritious diet of academic achievement and a training regime of connecting positively with others.
My prediction is that they’ll lose their pudginess in quick time and be back on track for a healthy life of learning and love.
In the meantime, can we just be kind to each other and ease up a bit on the Twisties?
Keep fighting that good fight.”