As young people gear up toward putting time into their revision for next year’s mock exams - and then A-levels and GCSE’s, NLP and mindfulness expert, Peter Wright, warns that parents should be ensuring young people adopt a healthy attitude towards revision, and be encouraged to escape from the pressures put on them by the system and by themselves.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem, yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
Peter said: “What adults and young people feel, often, is ‘we've got to work hard’, ‘we've got to try harder’ here; but trying hard never yields us the results that we want, often it can make things worse.
Peter is concerned that both children and young people need to be encouraged to find a place where they can empty their mind of thinking: “If there's too much ‘thinking’ going on, essentially, they're never going to get to feel that there's space enough for them to prepare to learn in a sensible way. That's stress. Their thinking is revved up; so if you stop revving up your thinking, you can actually drive quite smoothly.”
Peter believes that children are encouraged to pile the stress on themselves by creating an ‘it is expected of me’ situation. Some of this is parent-led, but it also a fault of the society where we promote the idea that ‘anything is possible’.
“I had a lad as a client a few years ago who was preparing for his common entrance exam.We identified that he associated particular imagery as to how ‘stressful’ this was for him. He was visualising the exam as a ‘big wall’ that he would have to climb over. For that he believed that he needed to adopt an attitude of various mental tools, with the main one being ’perseverance’. So we looked at ‘perseverance’ and we broke the meaning of it down and within the space of about a minute he came to the conclusion that he didn't need perseverance to scale that wall, he needed ‘courage’. When we focused on that I asked him, “If you've got that as a resource, how does that feel when you're coming up to this exam wall?" And he said, "Oh, it's a doddle!” It had taken the stress away. The young man (aged 12) in the article passed his exams, went to Blundell’s - the school of his wishes, got all his GCSEs and A-levels and is now currently at Exeter University!
My advice is that we need to create physical and mental space for them. Some may regard this as some simple ‘screen time’ and some may wish for some time in the great outdoors - but of course, many a teenager doesn't want to go for a walk because they don't like walking; ‘it's boring!’. Consider what they think is relaxing. Maybe it really is going to play a computer game or snap chatting with their friends because it is distracting them from the pressures that they're feeling. But try to introduce something else. Cooking something from scratch, some wild swimming, get out an old photo album and flick through photos, play some vinyl, pick up an old guitar, play a board game.
Here are some further tips to reduce stress and distract the mind:
1. Spread the fingers of your left hand. Now, using the index finger of your right hand, trace the spaces between the fingers of your left hand. Allow your right hand’s index finger to move in and out and up and down, going from the thumb of the left hand all the way along to the little finger.
It is a simple physical exercise – yet utterly distractive.
2. Place your tongue as close as you can to the roof of your mouth behind your upper set of teeth. Imagine there is a tiny droplet of edible oil between your tongue and the roof of your mouth – and hold that droplet there for around half a minute. Again, it is a simple physical exercise, that also invokes a directed use of imagination, or guided visualisation – and, as before, is completely distractive.
3. Close your eyes and imagine the space between your eyes – not on the outside, as you might see when looking in a mirror, but on the INSIDE. There is no significance to whatever imagery may come up for you as you are doing this open focus exercise – just let it come, and then let it go.
4. Similarly to the exercise above, imagine the space inside your nostrils, and notice how your breath passes through this space – first on the way in, when you breathe in, and then on the way out when you breathe out. Get a sense of how the breath flows through that space.
Engaging with these two open focus exercises for only about a minute, will disengage you with any excess or overwhelm of thought for that time.
We know we can direct our Minds to create change in our Bodies – we should never forget the power in our Bodies to create change in our Minds.
We are one complete, unique and synchronous system. It is there for us to engage with at all times!