I was once told that talking about myself and my feelings was self-indulgent, that it was unnecessary and that I needed to toughen up. For many years I held that belief and it caused me significant harm. I’m so grateful that the stronger voices in my life enabled me to see beyond the opinion of one. In a strange way, I’m glad that I experienced the adverse response to ‘feeling feelings’ in my childhood as it’s only opened my eyes more to the importance of recognising our emotions and doing something about them.
In recent years mental health has become less stigmatised but there’s still a long way to go. I heard Natasha Devon speak about the ‘1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues’ myth. She rightly said, if you have a head you are likely to experience some sort of mental health issue at some point in your life. Of course this is a spectrum, but I don’t believe that anyone is immune to experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression or low self-worth. We all need to work on our minds to stay mentally healthy, then if we are hit with a personal crisis we will be equipped to manage it more successfully. It’s an ongoing necessity, just like going to the gym once or eating healthily for one day won’t give you the body you want immediately (more’s the pity!)
As educators, we have a vital role to play in helping the younger generation through this crisis. It’s not going to be easy and when we do come back to school, we’ll be rebuilding our community before we can even begin to think about teaching. Surely every school will be putting the emotional needs of the children first, and any of those special ‘visitors’ we have will also recognise that it is vital. Adults will need to model to children the emotional processing that we are doing, and to be honest with them in an age-appropriate way.
Throughout my teaching career, I’ve believed that if I place the child at the centre of my decision making I can’t go far wrong. As we walk through this unfamiliar territory, we need to remember what matters most to us; to ground us, and to keep us looking ahead in a solution-focused way. I know that feeling my feelings and doing something about them will be the way that I manage lockdown, and beyond.