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Monday / Sep 10, 2018 /

On Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide prevention day is important because it’s a day to be reminded of or to learn what steps can be taken to mitigate the devastating loss of life. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young people, particularly young men and we all have a responsibility to know what we can do as a first step.

Knowing who might be at risk is the first step to prevention. Some signs may be talking about wanting to die, not always in the heat of the moment. Sometimes young people show they are at risk by their Internet history, which may reveal searches on ways to kill themselves. They may talk about how they think things may be when they are dead, give away prized and valued belongings and start writing or posting goodbye notes to family and friends. If these signs are present, do not be afraid to ask whether they have thoughts of self harm or are considering suicide and offer to support them to access immediate help.

The behaviours they exhibit, especially if high risk, are another indicator. Self-harm also increases risk, as does a history of previous suicide attempts. There are many effective techniques to help manage self-harm including ‘Calm Harm’ the stem4 app to help manage urges. However, an assessment of underlying factors and managing clinical depression in a young person is essential and should always be carried out by a qualified mental health professional.

The thoughts and ideas that are expressed are often an indicator of suicide. Most commonly thoughts are negative, accompanied by depression or extreme sadness, numbness or not caring. Occasionally there may be irrational anger. First line treatment for clinical depression includes Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) sometimes combined with Anti depressant medication.

Fluctuating or difficult to bear emotions make some young people very vulnerable to suicidal thoughts or behaviours. This may be due to a diagnosis such as bipolar disorder or emotionally unstable personality disorder or because the young person finds emotions hard to tolerate or express or is impulsive. Getting the right treatment, such as Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and medication is essential for this group together with long term mental health support as well as a tight network of care from a range of sources.

Social and relationship factors are another contributor, for example, if there is significant distress or loneliness around not having friends or an intimate relationship, withdrawal from people due to feeling different or being left out. Connecting at these times with the person and making sure that friends and family are aware that they are in a vulnerable place is useful.

Some young people are sensitive to certain triggers. Commonly these include struggling to deal with a big loss or disappointment in their life, an anniversary of a significant breakup or bereavement or an important person, especially family member, taking their own life. Whilst these experiences don’t trigger suicidal thoughts or intentions for many people, a small proportion of young people are more at risk if they find it particularly difficult to deal with loss or emotions, stay upset for much longer and don’t want to seek support or lack coping strategies. Being aware of these triggers, noticing negative changes, reaching out and offering to help or getting help for them in this instance will be effective.

In general – ask anyone you are concerned about if they are ok or if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves. Contrary to popular belief this will not trigger suicidal behaviour. Listen to them with compassion and let them talk. Let them know you have heard them by reflecting what you have understood of what they have told you and tell them they are not alone. Make sure they are safe by putting away sharp objects and help them get some support and tell someone responsible to keep an eye. Learning to leave behind or tolerate hopeless and helpless feelings and learning new ways of thinking and behaving is a slow process but it is definitely achievable.

Emergency numbers for the UK are 999 or 111
Asking for help pamphlet www.stem4.org.uk

Tuesday / May 01, 2018 /

Stress management for exams

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’ – a good depiction of the tenacity and determination he so clearly demonstrated for success. Many schools and universities are witness to the negative anticipation of exams and how they affect students. However, exam stress is not all bad and can be dealt with effectively.

Learning how to make the best use of stress can be very helpful in exams. We have become a society fearful of stress because of the many negative examples of the effects of chronic stress. However, stress is an essential component of good performance. ‘Eustress’ or good stress enables us to achieve our peak performance. When we are under stress, our brain gets sharper and concentration is boosted. Stress helps us to push ourselves forward and by doing so enhances self-belief and effectiveness. This is also why it’s important to pace yourself and to have breaks because too much stress creates a cortisol build-up, which keeps your body in a sustained state of threat, which is experienced as anxiety.

Anxiety is caused and maintained by fear-based perceptions and subsequent behaviours. Change feeling daunted to being challenged. Substitute the word ‘overwhelmed’ to ‘excited’ and note how a ‘conquering mind-set’ helps you feel in charge. You can also reduce adrenalin levels through exercise or by regulating your breathing which will contribute to lower levels of adrenalin and through this reduce your physiological reaction to stress. Most importantly, anxious behaviours need to be challenged by ‘feeling the fear, but doing it anyway.’ Having a ‘work-life’ balance is never more important than when studying for exams. Over the revision period, work will need to be given priority but make the ‘life’ bit fun and enjoyable, even if smaller than usual.

Dr Krause’s exam tips

  1. Repetition is an essential part of learning. Studies on neural plasticity show that repetition can also help your brain rewire itself so that your thinking becomes stronger.
  2. Learn the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. Fixed mindsets assume that intelligence and creative ability are a given and there’s nothing that you can do to change it. Growth mindsets thrive on challenge and see failure as a springboard for growth.
  3. When motivation is a problem, write down your goals. Set a date and time and make the fact that you’re getting started public, then force yourself to do at least 30 minutes of study. To keep focused walk around as you study.
  4. Prevent distractions – keep all technology out of reach.
  5. Have regular breaks when you study – not too long that you lose the momentum and not too short that you don’t benefit. 7 minutes at the end of every hour works for most.
  6. The day before the exam aim to run through your work and complete it by 3pm. Do something that relaxes you the night before. Decide whether it’s a good idea or not to speak to friends – last-minute comparisons are not very helpful. Go to bed at a reasonable time – not too early so you toss and turn but not too late.
Thursday / Feb 01, 2018 /

Teenage Anxiety – signs of anxiety and how to deal with it

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition people experience and is characterised by a range of anxious thoughts and behaviours.

Anxious thinking is almost always fear-based and anxious behaviour is often carried out to make the person less fearful. This behaviour is not generally positive, so for example, someone who is anxious of flying may not get on a plane.

Anxiety can show itself in many forms, so how do you know if you are anxious?

  • Are you feeling worried and agitated?
  • Are you feeling fearful about things that others are generally not fearful about?
  • Do you constantly worry?
  • Do you always predict a dramatic and negative outcome?
  • Do you overthink and over-check things always with a negative prediction?
  • Do you have a range of physical symptoms that are consistent with a fear response such as your heart racing, increased breathing and muscle tension?

People who are anxious are more likely to say ‘yes’ to most of the above questions.

Anxiety can be very unpleasant to experience and it can limit the things you want to do. So what can you try to do to deal with your anxiety?

  • Face it! – If you are putting off something because it makes you feel anxious, try and support yourself to face it – bit by bit
  • Do less – If your anxiety makes you think too much or do too much, try and reduce the behaviour – one step at a time
  • Accept it – The thoughts and behaviours you experience are symptoms of anxiety. See if you can calm your breathing and just let go of your fears by accepting them for what they are
  • Relax – Have regular breaks, learn to relax, be mindful. Art, exercise, writing, acting, yoga, massage and listening to music help
  • Monitor – Keep a diary to work out triggers and patterns
  • Seek help – Visit your GP by phoning your local practice and booking an appointment (check if you can book it with their mental health lead). Go ready to discuss your concerns and the problems you are experiencing. You can always take your diary with a record of symptoms with you in order to help this process. If you have a lot to discuss, book a double appointment

Organisations that can provide help include:

stem4 – website Anxiety UK – provide support and help if you’ve been diagnosed with, or suspect you may have, an anxiety condition.; No Panic – provide information for sufferers and carers of people with Panic, Anxiety, Phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD).OCD Action

Friday / Dec 01, 2017 /

Comment on the Government Green Paper ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health’

The government’s recent proposal to improve children and young people’s mental health services is a very positive step. The Green Paper emphasises the importance of early intervention and ease of access to prompt care. This provides a very welcome and essential emphasis. However, there needs to be inclusion of a robust prevention programme to ensure all children and young people have access to ways of experiencing positive mental health. This should include prevention from perinatal level and above and include children presenting with differing degrees of mental ill health.

The Green Paper aspires to establish parity between physical health and mental health. This is commendable. However, it is important that the allocation of funding to support mental health at all levels, is ring-fenced.

Whilst the emphasis the Green Paper makes on the provision of mental health support and intervention in schools is crucial, this should not be at the cost of existing child and adolescent mental health services. The Green Paper puts forward the opportunity for ‘innovative’ service development. This must not be established by disregarding evidence-based services and should be subject to detailed evaluation.

The Green Paper proposes having a designated senior lead for mental health in every school. This is a positive move. However, the training programme for such leads must be considered carefully and should be in collaboration with mental health specialists who are familiar with both schools and children and young people’s mental health, work within a developmental context and follow national guidelines. It is important that teachers are not expected to act outside their teaching role. They are not mental health therapists or specialists and cannot be expected to work as such. Whilst health economics are important, the input of specialist mental health professionals should not be devalued for cheaper alternatives since the lack of specialism to provide accurate assessment and proven intervention will prove more costly in the long term. The senior lead for mental health in schools should provide a signposting service and should not be involved in mental health assessment or the delivery of interventions. It is essential that these mental health leads have training and supervision on an on-going basis and have an annual appraisal by a specialist mental health provider.

The Green Paper proposes the development of mental health support teams to work in and with schools. These teams will provide a more accessible mental health service and facilitate better links with tertiary specialist services. There needs to be a coherent plan, based on existing research, on how these teams should work. There is no doubt that inclusion and collaboration of a number of professionals including educational psychologists, school nurses, social workers, counsellors, school doctors, clinical psychologists and child and adolescent psychiatrists in partnership will provide effective support and intervention. Resources should be ring-fenced to avoid poor quality interventions that are not evidence based or skilfully delivered. To ensure support and intervention is at a high level, teams must include specialist mental health professionals with a range of seniority and be managed by an experienced clinician. This will enable intervention to be suitably targeted. For example, support for children experiencing life events, adjustments issues, friendship issues can be provided by non directive supportive counselling and play therapy. Brief, evidence based interventions can be delivered by specially trained staff including Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners and accredited Cognitive Behavioural therapists whilst on-going support services for vulnerable children and those presenting with complex mental ill health problems, family interventions will be best delivered by social workers and clinical psychologists.

There are strong and consistent associations between adverse life circumstances, deprivation and emotional and behavioural problems in children and young people. Educational psychologists can provide consultation, assessment and brief evidence based interventions in schools. School nurses are well placed to support children and young people presenting with on-going physical problems, which also have impact on their mental health.

Smooth transition between school mental health teams and specialist NHS services should be developed for children with complex mental health needs or those not suitable for treatment in school.

The Green paper makes the welcome suggestion of a four-week waiting time target for NHS CAMHS. However, the NHS CAMHS services are currently hugely under resourced and it is unlikely that this target is achievable. Concerns include the threshold for acceptance to such service criteria becoming even more stringent, some services being forced to offer substandard non-evidence based short-term intervention and increased stress of staff working in such challenging environments. It is therefore proposed that more investment is made in funding the training of mental health specialists including clinical psychologists, specialist mental health nurses, social workers and psychiatrists who make up NHS CAMHS teams.

The main initiatives of the Green Paper will be offered to 20% of the country over a 5-year time scale. The full roll out of the designated mental health lead will not happen until 2025. In the meanwhile there are on-going cuts that are being imposed on CAMHS, school nurses, educational psychologists and a variety of children’s centres. It is recommended that schools are informed early of these initiatives so that they can start to prepare themselves to be ready to implement the proposals as soon as it becomes possible.

The Green Paper proposes compulsory PHSE. This is a positive step. However, not only will schools need guidance and support on how to implement this within the curriculum but the content and how children and young people are taught PHSE topics has to be informed by existing research and clinical experience and it is proposed that clinicians, educators and researchers are all involved in the putting together of an effective PHSE programme.

In summary there are many welcome changes proposed by the Green Paper but implementing these recommendations in the most effective way will need considerable investigation, research, planning and training.

Monday / May 08, 2017 /

80% OF TEENAGERS HAVE EXPERIENCED ANXIETY SINCE STARTING SECONDARY SCHOOL – one in ten say terrorism, the Brexit vote and the Trump triumph has left them scared and bewildered.

By Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Founder of stem4

Finally, the mental health of children and young people is getting some of the attention it merits. This was confirmed by Theresa May’s commitment, made at the beginning of the year, to ‘transforming’ mental health services. The new focus on young people emphasised additional training of teachers, the development of stronger links between schools and adolescent services and a target for children to receive treatment in their local area by 2021.

All this is timely, since there has been substantial growth in the number of children in England receiving care for their mental health. Data covering 60% of mental health trusts (NHS Digital October 2016) revealed staggering figures: around a quarter of a million children were receiving mental health care in England. Some 12,000 boys and girls aged five and under were noted as receiving help, whilst 235,000 people under the age of 18 were receiving specialist care.

There is no doubt that children and young people are under increasing stress. This month, stem4, the teenage mental health charity, published the results of a survey of 500 12-16 year- olds. It revealed a number of anxieties, including exam worries (41%), work overload (31%), friendship concerns (28%), worries about peer acceptance (23%), lack of confidence (26%), concerns with body image (26%), low self-esteem (15%), and feelings of being overwhelmed (25%). Of course, anxiety may just be part and parcel of being an adolescent, but the increase in worries over exams and performance is more of a modern-day phenomenon.

One statistic however stood out for me: one in ten teenagers reported strong feelings of anxiety over current world affairs. This is an issue that often comes up in the work I do for stem4, in the course of which I have had contact with over 10,000 students through school workshops and conferences and in my clinical work. The world’s instability and unpredictability – whether manifest in terrorism, the Brexit vote or the Trump triumph – has left children and young people scared and bewildered. They are concerned about the decisions that adults around them take and the legacy they are going to be left.

Their sense of insecurity is no doubt further intensified by the rise in the number of parents suffering from mental ill health. One in four adults experience a mental ill health problem (National Centre for Social Research, 2015), while one in five mothers suffer from depression and anxiety during pregnancy or the first year after childbirth (Independent Mental Health Taskforce, 2016). It is estimated that nearly two million adults were in contact with specialist mental health services at some point in 2014/15, but that probably represents just 20% of the people who need help.

The chances are that between one-third and two-thirds of children whose parents have mental health problems will go on to experience difficulties themselves (ODPM 2004). This could be because the young person has to take on inappropriate levels of responsibility as they care for themselves or the household. Equally, it might result from the powerful emotions engendered by living with a parent who has a mental health issue; these include anger, guilt, embarrassment or self-blame, and put a young person at increased risk of difficulty in their relationships with friends, problems at school and vulnerability to harmful behaviours. Above all, poor mental health among parents leads to increased anxiety among children. As a clinician, I have worked with many children and young people whose parents have mental health problems. One of the things that frightens them most is their sense that the people who should be protecting them are vulnerable or fragile.

It’s not surprising that today’s children are increasingly experiencing problems with their mental health. They are fearful. They face challengingly high expectations when it comes to school work and friendships. Meanwhile, they look out on a world where their parents are vulnerable, their friends are troubled, and the geo-political situation is unpredictable and even terrorising.

If we are to stem the increase in mental ill health among young people, we need to find ways of making them feel safe. They need prompt access to effective interventions that can alleviate their internal turbulence. At the same time, we need to make provision for offering equally rapid support and effective intervention to their parents. At the level of society in general, we must find ways of reassuring young people that the decisions taken by their elders will take their safety into consideration, now and in the future.

Sunday / Jan 08, 2017 /

Developing a practical, easy and adaptable evidence based model of wellbeing in schools – the MINDYOUR5 programme – Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

There are many wellbeing programmes for schools. Some are targeted for specific groups of students, such as, for example, small, social and emotional skills groups, or groups aimed at reducing problem behaviours or increasing positive behaviours or competence such as exercise.  Some programmes, such as the UK resilience programme, are intended for all students.  There are also some mentoring and peer support programmes and social action interventions such as the National Citizen Service or the Duke of Edinburgh programme. Ultimately, all programmes aim for the same goal – enabling children and young people to thrive and achieve their full potential and the building of a positive school community.

However, there is significant variation in what each of these programmes provide since the focus can range from increasing competency, to reducing problem behaviours. In addition, some interventions are classroom based whilst others are outside of the classroom, whether they are delivered through extracurricular clubs or through engagement with the wider community. With so many programmes being advocated, what to choose has become increasingly confusing for many schools, particularly with the emphasis and pressure there exists on achieving academic rigour and maintaining quality standards.  Most importantly, each school has its own identity and this further confuses choice since ‘one size doesn’t fit all ‘ leaving schools bewildered on the cost benefit of adapting a programme that may not necessarily work for them or that they find hard to implement and to maintain.

In order to clarify a well-being model that can guide choice and help schools create their own bespoke within school model, which can be integrated into the curriculum, I have developed a well-being programme that focuses on the five main categories that psychological research indicates needs to be covered to be comprehensive. Since the five-a-say model is a known one for physical health, I have developed ‘MINDYOUR5’ a well-being model of 5 day for good mental health.  The model is simple and educates students, teachers and parents on what the five main categories are and provides examples of what can be done daily in each of the five categories to enhance positive mental health. The activities suggested have been trialled, using feedback from students and are simple and easy to implement and maintain. There is also scope for individual tasks that suit each person to be incorporated, which brings about ownership and therefore more potential for engagement. As well as individual level implementation, suggestions have been made on how the programme can fit into the school curriculum so that the message can be reinforced in lessons. Existing programmes, such as the ones mentioned in the introduction, can also be embedded if so wished, into the relevant category. This provides schools with the option of creating bespoke well-being programmes that suit the school and as a result are more likely to be implemented and maintained.

The model is simple. The five categories are

mind5

healthy_practice

© Dr Nihara Krause

Case study 1

The five categories of MINDYOUR5 were explained to students and teachers. The programme was trialled for a week in a secondary school with students, teachers and parents all taking part. Feedback was collated at the end of the week. Satisfaction in those taking part was high (92%); attitude shift in terms of realising that it was easy and fun to carry out many of the activities was positive (89%); 90% reported feeling happier at the end of the week, whilst most of the students (97%) said they would wish to continue to keep up with their tasks. All categories were liked although ‘positive thinking’ was seen as the hardest to apply category. Following this, a reminder of the five categories was incorporated into all student planners so that the students could be reminded of their need to maintain these behaviours.

From feedback obtained about the types of tasks as well as how to incorporate this into a school curriculum from a number of different schools, a MINDYOUR5 whole school programme for junior schools has just been developed which maps each category of activity onto the curriculum.

Case study 2

A junior school is currently trialling the MINDYOUR5 programme for the whole school. This has included the following:
There has been a talk to teachers to see if they like the model
Based on full agreement, there has been a teacher training session on how to educate each class on the model
There has been a parent session informing parents about the model
The school has been provided with the programme, a power-point which can be adapted to suit the developmental level of the students, booklets for each child to fill in and guidelines for a school assembly to start the programme.
The school will then be supported in their delivery of the programme and results will be collated at the end of the year.

If you would like to download the new MINDYOUR5 programme for Junior Schools please contact Nihara Krause by email at drkrause@mindyour5.co.uk

All rights reserved Dr Nihara Krause Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Tuesday / May 03, 2016 /

Anorexia – a sign of narcissism?

Baroness Bakewell recently commented about the fact that she thought that anorexia nervosa was a sign of the ‘overindulgence of our modern society’ and a ‘sign of narcissism’ in teenagers. This comment sparked a backlash of responses and I was lucky that my comment to the Sunday Times was published. This is what I said:

“The suggestion that eating disorders are a modern phenomenon caused by focus on body image is not only unhelpful but also inaccurate: the first case of anorexia was written up in 1873.  (‘Anorexia is narcissism, says Joan Bakewell’, p1 13 March, 2016).

Anorexia carries the highest mortality rate of all mental health conditions, has a devastating impact on individuals and their families, and is extremely complicated to treat.

Sufferers are not gratifying a “narcissistic” impulse.  On the contrary, they usually lack self-esteem, have high levels of anxiety and depression, and present with complex psychological difficulties.

Given the difficulty of motivating them to accept help, suggestions that their illness is the product of vanity is potentially very damaging.  Far from seeking to enhance their appearance by simply deciding not to eat, sufferers often feel caught in a trap where their disorder helps them to cope with a bewildering range of emotions and difficult experiences.

Whilst I welcome the public discussion that these comments have provoked since we undoubtedly need to question why looking good is portrayed by our society as the best way to improve self worth, we also need to do more to educate people on the painful reality of eating disorders, and on mental health problems more generally.

Tuesday / May 03, 2016 /

The ugly truth about resilience

The focus on emotional resilience is pretty much at a peak at the moment with the search for embedding it in individuals, especially children and young people, at an all time high. Politicians, schools and companies advocate resilience training programmes, with a great manner of teachings on a variety of ways to increase our emotional elasticity. Don’t get me wrong, education and the instilling of resilience is important, hugely important, and people who know the amount of work I do on building resilience, including my MINDYOUR5 programme, a ‘five a day’ for mental health as well as the many hours I spend offering psychological treatment will verify my belief in it. However, no matter how ‘mindful’ one might be, or curious, or good at CBT, the ugly truth is that resilience alone will not help you to cope with the adversities of life. It will not, solely, enable growth nor lead to keeping mental illness at bay.

The problem is that resilience isn’t a binary concept where you either are or aren’t resilient. Nor is it consistent. You may be resilient to some emotions but not to others, you may be resilient to a number of events but you will have your limit and you may be resilient at some times but vary at others.

It also doesn’t matter how resilient you are, there are many external factors that can affect you. Apart from the predictable ones such as loneliness, financial problems, social breakdown and huge amounts of stress, others such as the impact of the speedy and relentless dissemination of distressing information through digital sources and the constant struggle to keep ahead, will affect you, hugely, deeply. The impact of experiences and ultimately our genetic inheritance will all affect resilience like acid rain on a growing plant. Resilience education can’t just focus on the individual, if we truly want to be more resilient, then it needs to move towards considering and strengthening external factors that contribute to mental ill health – the strain posed by the ‘outside’ world on the individual.  Whilst we work to equip ourselves to face tumultuous weather conditions, lets also take steps to prevent how we might contribute to climate change in the first place.

In a meritocratic society there is a belief that you get what you deserve. ‘Internalisers’ who believe that anything and everything is within their control will not like the fact that contrary to the sentiment expressed in  ‘There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things’,  (Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 5, Scene 1) there is sometimes no why and wherefore to mental illness. The biggest problem of resilience education is the instillation of a belief that a breakdown in your mental health or wellbeing is solely based on the inability of the individual to apply and manage suitable and effective thoughts, emotions or behaviours. Sure, being resilient will help you to bounce back from adversity quicker, just as strengthening the external ‘systems’ that affect the individual – their families and communities will also help, but a breakdown in mental health is not proof of weakness (or that all those mindful courses haven’t worked) it is also part of the human condition.

In an area where there has been so much stigma, and this stigma mainly being due to a mistaken concept that mental illness, unlike physical illness, is as a consequence of ‘being weak’ – we need to take care in our message. It is important that we educate on resilience and provide young people with tools to negotiate their way through the turbulence of life effectively, but we need this message to be balanced and realistic. Lets do what we can to keep our mental wellbeing at its peak and feel confident about effectively dealing with what we face, but lets also focus on creating a more robust environment that supports growth and agree that sometimes, through no fault of anyone or anything, ‘bad stuff’ happens and that when it does, we don’t feel despairing or condemned that in some way we have proved our weakness and failed in the resilience stakes.

Thursday / Feb 04, 2016 /

Procrastination – laziness or a natural consequence of modern pressure?

According to various Psychological studies about 20% of us are procrastinators – those who wait until the very last minute to deliver. This seems somewhat of an underestimate if the discussions I’ve had with young people in the many schools I work with reveal. A number of them quite proudly admit to doing things at the very last minute. Why? ‘I cant be bothered’ is the most common answer, together with ‘there are better things to do.’ Other answers tend to fall into the categories of ‘I know I can get away with it’ to ‘its boring.’ A small number will say its because it makes them anxious to start.

Why do we put things off? There’s certainly a lot written about procrastination together with a whole range of tips on how to overcome this behaviour. The answers range from indicating that we all have an internal ‘cost benefit’ question we ask ourselves when we have to work; needing to value something to do it; fearing failure and to being lazy. Nike in their slogan ‘just do it!’ addresses this lethargy. Oh, if it were only so easy!

Most young people of today, contrary to popular belief, work hard, incredibly hard. From the time they are very young they are trained to be tested, to be accomplished in a range of extracurricular activities and to represent themselves to a high standard. In an incredibly competitive world, there is no time to ‘take it easy.’ As adults we wouldn’t want to bring our work home after a hard day’s work, young people have to do just that. Even recreationally, they are constantly evaluated. How many likes, how many followers, they can be built up in a few seconds and destroyed on the stage of social media with just one click – an outcome they can’t predict or control. Viral destruction. That’s apart from all the messages they get about the effort they need to put in to succeed, get ahead, get into a good school, stay on top of their set, to look good, be popular and generally keep abreast.

If we want young people to learn to overcome procrastination, perhaps we need to address some fundamental facts. The first, is an intellectual snobbery that admitting putting effort into academic success is a failing – that if we are bright we should ‘just be able to do it’ and that therefore, we should pretend to others that we’ve achieved without effort. The second, that parents should challenge their own competitiveness to ‘get ahead’ through the effort they put in on behalf of their child. The number of school projects, essays, and creative pieces completed by parents on behalf of their children surely far outweigh a child’s own work? Ultimately children know, that should they procrastinate, their parents will step in to deliver an amazing result. The third point is tricky – are children exhausted by the hard work that drives their days? The constant homework, the testing, the rote preparation for exams? Well, teachers certainly are, so I guess children must be too.  In a culture dominated by anxiety and a fear of failure, the need to put in constant effort to achieve a perfect result has become too big a pressure for some, with procrastination an almost inevitable result.

Thursday / Feb 04, 2016 /

Why do we self-deceive?

Many people have heaved a sign of relief that ‘dry January’ has come to an end because although some may be virtuous in their ability to have completed the month, (which is, of course, no small feat and should be heartily commended), for many, it wouldn’t have been the most successful, as is backed by the BUPA 2015 poll that states that approximately 43% break their resolution within the first month. I got thinking when I overheard a friend of mine, known to pass out at many a party due to alcohol excess, saying the other day ‘Well, I couldn’t stick to dry January, but then I don’t drink that much anyway’.

The fact is we are terrible self-deceivers. We often lie to ourselves about how much we drink and about how much we eat. We deceive ourselves as to whether we really are attracted to someone or not or whether we are enjoying what we tell other people we truly are. We lie to ourselves about bigger choices – careers,  partners, becoming parents.

Why do we do this? Partly its because we fear the truth – we don’t want to deal with the consequences that facing reality will generate. Self-acceptance is a funny thing. We need it and yet we shy away from it. Better to either avoid or  denigrate our selves than accept the truth, since we need to preserve our ‘ideal self’ and to some extent our ‘ideal world.’

However much wool we may draw over our eyes, we live our reality. Our truth is part of how we think, behave and relate. Grieving for an ideal is part of life and sad as it is, it needs to happen. It’s time to face the truth and accept responsibility for oneself. Self-acceptance and self-compassion enable living a far more content life, in the present and for the future.