At the end of another school term, it’s taking me a while to choose what I want to write about. After all, there is never a lack of topics to be discussed when it comes to adolescents and their wellbeing. I could make a comment on world politics, but I’m not sure that’s part of my brief… despite the fact that really everything we feel strongly about is often a political issue. So I’ll stick to something we can all agree on – ha! Stumped again. In that case, I’ll go with research and while not everybody likes to agree with research and indeed even research doesn’t agree with itself at times, some things simply can’t be questioned.
Let’s look at stress then. We all suffer from it from time to time, it’s something that can really work in our favour, helping us to up the ante and give something a good nudge when we need to. However too much and the whole system can crash, leaving us useless at achieving anything and even at times feeling hopeless. The secret lies in keeping things manageable, making good choices around what’s important, what’s crucial and what doesn’t matter quite so much. We can really get into hot water when we try and do every single thing perfectly or ‘excellently’ because we are simply not capable of that. It’s a cruel and punishing life to be living when trying to do the impossible is how we start each day, striving for an unattainable goal.
I had a very wise woman tell me some life changing words once. She said “Marcelle, this just has to be good enough”. Wow. That was an amazing revelation to me – you mean I don’t have to do this until it breaks me?? You mean I can still do well and do what needs to be done without my mental (ill)health being the badge of honour to wear to show I’d somehow succeeded? Good question that – succeeded in what exactly? Ruining my ability to see things clearly, damaging my sleep patterns, which in turn would affect my mood. Causing so much anxiety that I couldn’t eat, or ate far too much, creating a myriad of other brain based chemical issues. Or causing me so much stress that I could no longer have fun with my friends and see the lighter side of life. Nope. Stress is not a ‘badge of honour’. It’s something that wreaks havoc- the continuous release of cortisol doing to our brains what a car load of drunken thugs does with a spray can. It’s not pretty and it’s definitely damaging.
Having a shared message with our young people around being good enough is vital. We are still loveable if we don’t achieve perfection (or excellence) and we can live a full, rewarding and admirable life if we keep a balanced approach to what’s critical and what’s important and some things, quite frankly don’t matter. Hey remember that test you did in Maths in the fourth form? No, didn’t think so
So once again we can look to Tilly for inspiration in the area of living a balanced life. She always knows when it’s time to work, play, eat or sleep. And nothing gets in the way of her knowing what her body needs, what emotional connection she requires and when she needs to be attentive and quietly responsive in the counselling room, or chase the cat once she’s home.
Balance. Now that’s definitely a badge of honour to be striving for.