Mental wellbeing for young people

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Create Calm

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 16 Sept, 2020

In life's busy times - whether frantic with good stuff or something a bit more difficult - how do you think clearly and do life well? Here's why we all need to create moments of calm.

Hey, so this is the next one of my series of the A to Z of Feeling Great and today is about C.

It's about creating calm 'cause you know what? Life can be frantic sometimes. It can be super busy. It can be difficult and challenging and make us feel stressed out in that nervous anxious way or it can just be awesomely fun but really full of stuff that we're trying to do, loads of stuff we're trying to juggle and keep track of. And when you're in any of those places, your mind is literally having to follow loads of stuff. It's having to focus its attention, it's having to do more work, what we call cognitively, your brain is literally just having to tick at a higher level to keep track of everything that's going on. And to do that, it raises the level on your physiological stress system.

So you might not be stressed out, you could be loving it. It could be you're planning a really big party or a super moment in your life but for your brain, it's really hard work. So your stress level rises. And sometimes in those moments when life is really busy, maybe they combine with time and there are other things going on that are making us anxious or that are stressful in that more classic stress-y way. And all of those things push that level up. And the higher that level on your stress system goes, the more uncomfortable it feels.

And we all have a crisis point when that level has got so high that you start to feel really uncomfortable. It's like ‘actually if anything more gets thrown at me in this moment, I feel like I might go under. I can't handle this’. Your brain starts to send thoughts like ‘I've gotta get out of here’ and you just need to stop and we feel that sense of panic. And we know we're about to lose it. In those moments, your emotions like frustration and anxiety, they're on the same system. So if you're right at crisis point, those emotions can bubble to the surface and be much more difficult to hold and handle well so we're more at danger of freaking out and doing stuff that we'll later regret or have to apologise for or get into trouble for.

And also, when you're in that place, your brain starts to go onto a kind of emergency mode. It changes the way it processes things. So it starts to simplify everything and try and make it easier. To make it really black or white, one thing or another. So you feel like people are either for you or against you. Something's either good or it's bad. Something you've done is either successful or it's a total failure. You can't handle any grey in the middle.

The problem is most of life is grey in the middle. So you do a test; most of the time, you're not gonna score 100% and the risk is in those moments when you're close to overwhelm is anything other than 100% feels like a disaster.

So when we get to this point, sometimes we have to act really quickly to change things, to drop that stress level, otherwise it can push us into a zone where things can get worse, they can start to feel really difficult and generally, they're not as bad as they feel. It's just that you're in that emergency setting, red alert space.

So we create calm. So I'm sat in my garden chair, grabbing a calm moment. And sometimes on a busy day, it can just be that loads happens all at once and your stress level just rises and rises and rises. And in those moments, just grabbing literally two minutes can make all the difference.

So you know you're freaked out, you've just had a report back, you didn't do very well on it. There's been loads of stress-y stuff in your friendships, you're worried about the next lesson, all of that, it's lunchtime. What do you do? Do you go hang out with your mates who are also stressing about all those things? Or do you just grab two minutes to yourself first? Those two minutes could be the difference between doing the rest of the day on overwhelm or just dropping it.

Create calm. Maybe even in the moment, you just need to sometimes in a lesson, you can put your hand up and nip to the loo. That minute or so just of grabbing a calm moment. Check out my video on better breathing for things you can do in that calm moment to drop your physiological stress level. So think about in those intense moments, can you get out just for a second? Make a cup of tea, walk round the block, get out into some fresh air, sit on the back step, nip to the loo, put a track on that's your favourite song on your phone. Whatever it is just to create a moment of calm and drop your stress level. You will think clearer and feel better for it.

But also, build calm into your schedule. Set into your rhythm stuff you do that relaxes you, that keeps that baseline level nice and low 'cause if your baseline is low, then the challenges of everyday life are easier to manage. If you've let it rise and rise and rise 'cause you're not doing stuff regularly that helps you feel good and chill out, then you're gonna be nearer to overwhelm all the time. And that's particularly important in seasons when life is busy or dramatic or challenging. And remember, stress doesn't have to be about distress. So it could be the best season in your life. Maybe you're preparing to go off to uni or you've just started a new school or you've got in with a new bunch of mates or you've got a big show coming up or something. But those things also raise your stress level.

So don't forget, whatever you're doing, no matter how busy you are, create calm. It's not doing nothing; it could be the most important thing you do in your week.


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About life's seasons ...


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