Mindfulness Can Help Students Cope With Challenges
Our life is unpredictable and can be both fun and challenging. While pleasant emotions are always welcomed and neutral feelings are easy to handle, negative experiences are not so invited. We want only good things to happen and very often stressful events are perceived as something alien that should never take place in our lives.
Each one of us has our own set of coping strategies, which we use for managing challenging situations. Yet, not all that we do to alleviate stress is effective. What’s more, what we think to be helpful appears to be harmful in the end.
If something bad or unpleasant happens, we want to make it go away. How do we usually get rid off distressing feelings? On most occasions, we tend to avoid upsetting emotions. We may pretend that nothing bad happened to us or if we accept that a wrongful event took place, we try to think that all is not so bad. Yet, many adults and adolescents in particular, may try to escape in an attempt to silence painful memories in an unhealthy form such as procrastination, eating disorder, smoking, drinking, taking drugs, technological addiction, cutting, violence etc.
Individuals with low levels of distress tolerance are unable to cope in a healthy way and have a so-called allergic reaction to discomfort. This condition is very common in the student environment because the psyche of adolescents is not fully formed yet. Besides, our education system doesn’t teach how to manage challenging situations effectively. Very often, instead of facing and solving the problem, young people prefer to avoid the issue refusing to accept reality. This, in its turn, escalates the problem further causing even worse implications.
Avoidance of negative events, feelings, thoughts, and sensations may offer temporary relief but in the long run, it may result in such dangerous conditions as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, poor social relationships, self-abuse etc. There’s nothing wrong in trying to fix the problem when the situation is amenable but if what happened cannot be changed, the resulting intense and unpleasant feelings must be managed correctly to prevent destructive consequences.
In the case of adolescents, their cognitive and emotional skill set is in the process of development and they are more susceptible to the risk of emotional distress. Overriding powerful negative emotions is difficult and even impossible for some young people so teachers should play the role of caregivers who can facilitate students’ healthy and adequate emotion regulation. Many young people tend to believe that only good feelings are acceptable while uncomfortable sensations are to be avoided because they are the sign of imperfect performance and personal weakness.
Teachers need to be able to help distressed youngsters by bringing mindful awareness to the way, which adolescents use to approach their unpleasant experiences. Learning to observe and acknowledge thoughts and feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant, is the basis of managing challenging situations adequately. It’s not possible to fully escape stress but dealing with it correctly will help prevent unpleasant consequences. Masking fear, shame, irritation, anger, anxiety or sadness is never helpful so dispassionate acknowledgment of inner emotional and mental experience is the way to work with any type of problem, even tricky and ill-defined one.
It’s important to note that mere observation will not be useful because the acknowledgment of hard feelings needs to be nonjudgmental. Acceptance of the situation and open recognition without confrontation or fixing is the way to emotional balance. Teachers can be the mediators who can help students understand that covering up unpleasant feelings is harmful and a mindful approach is what can relieve stress caused by any dissatisfaction in the classroom.