Mental wellbeing for young people


Is there POTENTIAL in the midst of PRESSURE?

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 16 Feb, 2021

So the pressure of this moment can't be avoided. But is there a way we can manage it? And could we even find something unexpected - potential? Kate wants to tell us about something called the Hope Circuit (hint: it's in your brain)

Hey, how are you doing in Lockdown 3?

Isn't it weird to do this for a third time? It's like the third part of a trilogy and everyone knows part threes are always rubbish, but this pandemic stuff is tough, right? And here's why you feel under so much pressure.

Your mind uses routine and predictability to keep your stress level low. So you see stress isn't just those times you're freaking out, it's not just about distress: it's anything that places demand on your mind, that needs you to act, to react, to adapt.

So life is a bit like climbing a wall and in normal life, you know where all the handholds are and you can do it without thinking, but in lockdown, it's like all the handholds are gone and also the wall kind of looks different. And every time you think you figured out how to climb it, everything changes again, and there's new boulders or obstacles or there's a handhold that you are not allowed to use anymore: something you used to do, but that isn't allowed now.

Everything keeps on changing and alongside that, some of the stuff that's happened has rocked our foundation, stuff we always thought would be stable and that we could rely on. I mean, who would ever have thought that exams could be cancelled? Like not just once, but two years running, that's just crazy. And all the stuff we would normally do that helps us to relax and chill out and feel better, sometimes it feels like all of that is forbidden. You can't hang out or go to dance classes or go to football or rugby or whatever it is that you used to do.

So as a result of all of this pressure, it's like everybody's baseline stress level has risen. And we all have this crisis point when literally your mind starts to struggle with everything that's been thrown at it, that barrage of just relentless demand and it makes you feel like you're living on the edge.

And when you're in this space on the edge of overwhelm, even a little deal, something you normally deal with without any problems, it feels like a MAJOR deal because it pushes you into this overwhelm zone. And when you're in that overwhelm zone, it feels pretty awful because your brain goes onto this sort of emergency setting and it turns down your rational thinking analytical brain. So you can't think clearly, it's like your mind is saving any of its remaining resources in case something else crazy happens.

So things start to feel really negative because your brain's being really hyper careful, to make sure it doesn't miss anything important. And all the time, it's trying to get you to bail, get out, change your situation, escape from whatever it is it's making you feel so rubbish. So you feel this sense of panic and there's thoughts in your head like, 'I can't do this' and 'I need to get out of here', but you can't get out when the problem is global pandemic. So it just ramps up that sense of panic. And because we feel out of control, it makes us feel despair and hopeless, like 'how can we change this stuff'? It's like, you're dropped in the middle of an ocean and you can't even swim for shore, it sucks.

But, there is some stuff you can do. And our challenge in this season, is while we can't swim for shore, it's about learning how to tread water, to keep yourself afloat while you wait, you wait for rescue or more correctly, you wait for the tide to turn. 'Cause this is gonna get better, it is gonna end, normal life is gonna resume.

And there's this network in your mind that sometimes people call the hope circuit and it triggers all the good stuff, like good emotions, motivation. It helps you feel more positive, more in control, but even better, it switches off that suffocating sense of despair and it drops you out of that overwhelm zone and research tells us, the more you practice using the bits of your mind that can do that, the better your brain gets at it. The more you can harness the power of this hope circuit and the better you'll feel, now, but also in the future.

And that's awesome, because anything in life that's worth doing involves challenge and tough times and anxiety, that's how your brain tells you those things matter. Whether it's an exam or a first date or the bigger stuff in life like leaving home, going to uni, going to college, starting a new job. So the more you learn now, how to harness your hope circuit, the more you can release something.

And maybe in a season like this, you can find something really unexpected in the middle of all this pressure: potential and possibility, and you can start to discover just how awesome you are and how much you can actually handle and control and manage.

You know, there's this letter in the new Testament, it's a guy called Paul and he's writing to a bunch of new Christians and he's talking about tough seasons in life. And he says this, this is Romans 5: 3-5 in the Passion translation if you wanna look it up, he says, 'even in times of trouble, we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures would develop in us patient endurance, and patient endurance will refine our character and proven character leads us back to hope'. And what Paul's basically saying there, is tough times really suck. Like we will have times of trouble, times when we feel under pressure, when we're forced to endure. He says patiently, I don't know about patiently. I don't feel very patient right now after nearly a year of this. But he says in those spaces when we're enduring, something amazing happens, it refines us. It changes us it helps us dig the depths and discover stuff about who we are and what we can do.

And that refining of our character leads us to something really amazing: hope! It helps us hold hope and harness hope and good stuff. And that's amazing for us, 'cause hope, man, that's important and switching off despair, that's good. But also it means we can hope that for other people and we can support and help others. So in this season, having to endure this again, having to deal with pressure and pandemic, it's rubbish but you could find something unexpected in that possibility. So check out the other videos in this series and I'm gonna share with you how.