A Guest Post by @
The other day I was on the Tube in the rush hour. It felt uncomfortable and strange. Just 6 hours earlier I had been walking my dog across the open expanse of Dartmoor listening to skylarks and breathing in the air. Now, after arriving in London, I was squashed amongst hundreds of strangers swaying and stumbling with the stop-start of the train. I looked up at the faces, was I the only person who found this an odd way to get around? Did anyone else find it uncomfortable, hot and unnatural?
I couldn’t decipher the faces, some were blank and others fixed on their phones. There seemed to be a sense of resignation that this was just the way it was. I wondered how many journeys it would take before I too became used to this as ‘normal’?
As humans we have the capacity to make the abnormal ‘normal’ just as the commuters had done. It’s a useful coping mechanism for short-term experiences in our life (like a crowded Tube journey). However, it isn’t helpful, when we normalise something over a long period of time, for example stressful, repetitive thinking. When we become so used to the constant ricochet of negative thinking that we think it’s ‘ok’ and ‘normal’ this can lead to stress and exhaustion.
Have you ever noticed the silence after a whirring fan has suddenly been switched off? Or the peace after your washing machine has completed its spin cycle? Until the fan/washing machine stopped you didn’t realise how noisy it was. It’s the same with our thinking. We can get so used to the noise in our heads that we assume it is ‘normal’ and no longer hear/see it for what it is.
In schools the workload is incredible and many staff report high levels of stress. One of the most common complaints (I am a coach and trainer in schools) is that of mental exhaustion. The minds of leaders, teachers and support staff are full of buzzing, relentless thoughts. This constant barrage of thought is so continual that it becomes ‘normal’.
Wellbeing starts with you. It’s tempting to put others first and to learn about wellbeing, resilience and mindfulness with a view to help colleagues, students and families.
Stress and overwhelm is not caused by external events, it is caused by our habitual spiraling thinking about these events. We then add further thoughts like guilt, fear, anxiety, which is like pouring petrol on a fire.
Thoughts will pass through our minds, a bit like clouds in the sky. They might temporarily block out the sun, but if left alone they move on through. When we get attached to our thinking it is like following the cloud and keeping in its shadow. It takes a lot of energy to follow a cloud. Traditional psychology often tries to eradicate the cloud, to deal with, manage or eradicate the thinking. It’s much more simple than that. Our thinking is designed to pass on through if we let it go. The simplest way of doing this is to notice our thinking when it arrives and then allow it to move on.
If you’re keen to experience clarity of mind, ease and wellbeing, then firstly recognise how you have ‘normalised’ the babble of thinking in your head and secondly let your thinking pass on by, rather than fuelling it or adding to it.
Liz has a number of areas of coaching expertise, including leadership and education. In her collaboration with schools, Liz works with Heads, teachers and directly with children. Her innovative methods have achieved remarkable results and success.