We all hope that we and our families and friends will sail through life without meeting any great challenges or difficulties. However, we all know that this is never the case and, in fact, we learn more from meeting and facing difficult situations than we do when life is going smoothly. As the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh said, ‘It's like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them on the mud. Without mud you cannot have lotus flowers. Without suffering, you have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate.’
Mr Allen gave a fantastic assembly recently on stress, fear and anxiety, reminding us that experiencing a certain amount of stress can actually be helpful, and giving some practical strategies to the pupils (such as filling out a worry card) to deal with the difficult times.
I can’t recommend to you highly enough two books by the clinical psychologist Lisa Damour: Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, both of which contain a wealth of ‘tried and tested’, sensible and practical advice.
This is the foreword to the second book: 'It is not the presence or absence, the quality, or even the quantity of anxiety which allows predictions as to future mental health or illness; what is significant in this respect is only the ability to deal with the anxiety. Here, the differences between one individual and another are very great, and the chances of maintain mental equilibrium vary accordingly. The children whose outlook for mental health is better are those who cope with the same danger situations actively by way of resources such as intellectual understanding, logical reasoning, changing of external circumstances….by mastery instead of retreat.' Anna Freud (1965)