Riding the wave of uncomfortable & making friends with fear
This world of ours seems to be fuelled by fear from all corners at the moment. Public figures resigning by the week because of the unreasonable pressure they are under to be something of a superhuman down to parents like me worrying about the amount of homework I'm doing with my kids versus another glorious hour in the garden, now the sun has finally come out! It makes me particularly wide-eyed that there is so much fear-talk in education at the moment. The place where the absolute bedrock of nurturing future generations can be gripped by the anxiety of not delivering targets, paralysed by planning pro-formas and drowned in layers of evidence collecting.
I'm passionate about education professionals and I mean all the adults in our schools. Their energy levels, resilience and freedom to be themselves is exactly what makes for connections and sparks in the classroom. We are not our work and we are all juggling, spinning plates and pedalling like mad, down the unknown road ahead. The experience of life does not discriminate but that doesn't mean we need to be afraid of it. And that alone is for me, the ticket to a sense of belonging, worthiness and joy for everyone.
I'm getting better at surfing! My way of saying how being more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, has changed my life immeasurably and made for a more relaxed and buoyant experience all round. I'm living proof that going with an uncomfortable feeling, rather than fighting, flighting or sucking up the downward spiral of shame, opens doors that were otherwise invisible. And I'm hugely passionate about what I’ve learnt about the way human beings try to fend off anything uncomfortable. This is particularly prevalent in the classroom, where teachers and parents can easily jump in with support and scaffolding to lessen the effects and take away the pain. Be very clear at this point. I’m not pointing a finger. I’m guilty as charged. As a teacher and more recently a mum, who wouldn’t want to comfort, soothe and protect. What I’ve come to realise is being uncomfortable is vital to developing a wholehearted perspective and a realistic mindset for life ahead in the resilience lane. The only lane on the highway to our future selves.
When we become threatened our endocrine glands produce hormones. The big 3 being noradrenaline, adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals act on our organs and muscles and prepare the body for action, defence and survival. Diverting the blood to the brain, lungs and muscles. This in turn increases heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate so the body is ready for action. Think of it like a huge internal security system. An alarm going off and ALL the emergency services springing into action, a full scale response. The key point being that the effects of these chemicals only last about 90 seconds. Yes, only 90 seconds. That’s less than an Ed Sheeran song, shorter than the adverts on Bake Off and less time than it takes to boil a kettle and make a cup of tea. It’s really not very long but we all know it can feel like forever, especially the first time and even more so when you’re watching it in your own unspeakably precious children. When the butterflies in your tummy, dry mouth, tight throat and pounding heart pass as they naturally will, the uncomfortable feelings will go too and calm, quiet clarity will replace them. This is the place where we find our problem solving skills come alive, we can see what it is that we don’t know and creativity leads us to answers ourselves. Natural learning and problem solving, without the need for as much support, panic or fear of failure.
THE NOT SO GREAT 8
Uncomfortable feelings can be stand-alone or complexes made by a mixture of more than one. Here are the ones that trigger the greatest feelings of uncomfortable-ness and the most dangerous efforts to numb or distract.
I’ve come to call them the not so great 8!
Sadness Shame Vulnerability Helplessness
Anger Embarrassment Disappointment Frustration
All of these little beauties give us a physical sensation, something that’s real, different, unpleasant and uncomfortable. Walking through the doors of school on his first day, making a phone call to an angry parent, standing up in front of your team to present for the first time, being the messenger of bad news in a redundancy meeting. These feelings hit us all, all the time and all of our lives. From experienced CEO to her grandchildren in their school play. No human being is immune, biology doesn’t discriminate and nor should it. We need this primal human process as the life force behind our capability and capacity to survive and flourish.
BEING MY OWN BAROMETER
Recognising the feeling rumbling is absolutely key. All it takes is 90 seconds and those feelings will go. My 90 seconds are spent picturing waves. They come and they go. Before I know it the feelings have gone. The waters are calm, clear and still.
The more we practise this ourselves and the more we develop this in our workforce, pupils and children, the greater the capacity for resilience. In a swipe and one-click World, I think this is a vital skill, not something to be saved for burnout and therapy. Something else I’ve learned? Resilience is natural. It’s innate and has been inside us all along. It just needs the opportunity to flourish by being nurtured, not numbed, over-supported or fended off.
Best of all, this natural human ability doesn’t have a price tag. It doesn’t cost a penny. In fact it’s about DOING NOTHING, being present in a moment and trusting in our authentic nature. Makes me wonder just how much money we could save in our systems. Simply by being who we are and not being afraid of our own experience.
My Reset not Inset Experience is exactly what it says it is. Finding your reset button and getting behind the noise of the education system to that place of belonging, worthiness and connection.
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