Reducing Pressure

I often talk to parents, professionals in Hertfordshire about why it’s so important that you take the pressure off yourselves and take the pressure off of the young people that you are working with.

Welcome to the modern Western world where you are constantly in a state of panic. There is pressure coming from every conceivable direction – especially where young people are concerned – but I’m not just talking about the pressure on them, I’m talking about the pressure that is on you as a parent or a professional working with young people. There are pressures to make sure that the young people achieve in the way that they should be achieving, pressures to make sure that they are living in a healthy way, pressures to make sure that their mental health is in check.

You are working hard – you do not have enough hours in the day and doing your best. The truth is we’ve fallen into a trap where we’ve come to believe that by doing more we are doing better and that is not true. I have a little test for you if you’d like to do it and here’s what you’re going to do: firstly grab a pen and a piece of paper, you’re going time the next part of the exercise so have your pen and paper there ready and have your timer ready to go. Often what happens for us, when we are so busy and so under pressure is we end up multitasking and trying to squeeze in too much, into too short a space of time. Now you might think that you’re great at multitasking but let me tell you multitasking doesn’t work and I’m someone who’s pretty good at it but we’re going to do an exercise together that will help me prove that to you.

Here’s what you’re going to need, some paper, pen and some kind of a timer. You’re going to write out the alphabet from A to Z and then you’re going to go back to it and for each letter you’re going write its corresponding number, so A would be 1, B would be 2, C would be 3, D would be 4 and so on but it’s really important that you do it in that order. So alphabet first and then the numbers afterwards, Time myself and see how quickly you can do that first part of the challenge.

I put myself under so much pressure I actually wrote that U as 12 instead of 21 but I did it in 24 seconds. So just to prove the point that multitasking doesn’t work, we’re going to do the exercise in a slightly different way now. This time we are going to go A 1, B 2, C 3, so it’s exactly the same process but rather than writing the entire alphabet and then all of the numbers we’re going to do both of them simultaneously and we’ll see if this affects our timing.

I think I was pretty quick, I managed to get all 26 letters, however, my time was 26 seconds. I am almost two seconds slower. I’ve done this exercise before so I anticipate that my score is probably going to be significantly better than most other people’s.

My point is that the more pressure we are under, the more we tend to end up multitasking in order to get everything done. Aside from the multitasking side of it maybe there is a lesson in there about the fact that everyone might do a little bit better if they are under less pressure. There have been studies done that prove that a happy workforce is a more efficient workforce, if that is true in the workplace, it must also be true in the classroom. Could it also be true in your home? Maybe this advantage of feeling less pressured actually serves to make them more efficient but most importantly to think in a more creative and intelligent way.

The only way that this is ever going to work is if you lead by example. You know that when you’re in a classroom, no matter how chilled out the group may be, if you’re frantic then that energy seems to transpose itself into the young people that are there. This is something that parents cannot escape too, as stressed-out parents will have an effect on their child, whether they think they are or not. Once upon a time, I had a parent who came to see me and she had an eating disorder and she swore blind that she hid this eating disorder from her child but somehow or another the child ended up having an eating disorder.

Whether or not the parent perhaps wasn’t as successful at concealing it as they’d like to think, maybe it was genetic, who knows but perhaps it just somehow gets transmitted in a sort of psychological way from that parent’s unconscious behaviour. Perhaps they are doing things that give it away but they’re not aware that they’re doing them because they’re too busy doing the doing of it. lf we know that a workforce can be more efficient when they actually work less because they feel less pressured and they are happier doing what they’re doing, then absolutely the same thing can apply in the classroom and at home.

It’s really important that you take a moment to step outside of the frantic and the busy and reduce the amount of pressure that you’re putting on yourself and the amount of pressure that you are putting on others. Even if you think you are very conscious of not putting too much pressure on the young people in your lives, if you are putting pressure on yourself they are still going to pick up on it and it will still affect them. It has to apply for both of you and not just for one or the other.

I know that you are doing your best and it’s because you’re doing your best that you’re probably doing so much but the point is you might be able to do even better by doing a little less. Take the pressure off of yourself, take the pressure off of others and notice what a difference it makes not just in terms of productivity and efficiency and the level of achievements that we’re seeing but actually in terms of things like social connection and meaningful conversation and all of the other positive ramifications that this can have.

By Gemma Bailey

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