The importance of emotional first aid

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In May, I was privileged to spend my Friday night and Saturday morning in the warmth, wisdom and kindness of Paul Gilbert and the LBC Wise Counsel community at LBCambridge2, a residential for in-house counsel.  A lot of the discussion was around the importance of purpose, to guide us professionally and personally, to provide a compass through the challenges of our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Arbitrary world, and to maintain our emotional and mental health.  

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) this year was stress.  For me, stress is about the perception that the demands upon us are exceeding our resources - that more is being demanded of me than I can deliver - the key being that it is my perception that counts, not the truth of that delicate balance.  If I believe or feel that too much is being asked of me, that my resources are not enough, I will feel stressed, regardless of whether my perception is correct.  Part of the value of purpose is to help us keep the demands in perspective, to enable us to see the things we really need to focus on, and leave the rest, because our resources are limited, however superhuman we sometimes feel we are expected to be, an expectation that is generally imposed from within rather than without.  Purpose also helps us to recognise and channel our resources, and avoid underestimating our own capabilities.

Having a clear sense of personal and organisational purpose, and ensuring there is sufficient alignment between the two, may not make us superhuman but will certainly give us some hidden powers.

One of the delegates (thank you Janet McCarthy!) shared with me this TED talk -

Guy Winch talks with great insight and passion about the importance of emotional hygiene and first aid care, something that lies at the heart of so much of the training work we do here at byrne·dean.  We must reflect on the importance of our emotional wellbeing, and how little attention we pay to it, and how little we learn about it.  

As I write, my 16 year old son, has taken time out of his GCSE revision to play the piano.  He is doing it for himself and has little sense, I suspect, of the joy it gives me to hear him play.  He is lost in the moment, mindful for ten minutes, away from the worries about tomorrow - RE and Computer Science.   And in sharing that moment with me, however unintentionally, he allows me too to be mindful.  So thank you Jude.

Finally, as I read this back to see if it makes any sense, I realise that I am saying a lot of thank yous.  Recognising the good things in our lives, rather than worrying about the stress and dross, and being thankful for them and the human connection those gifts imply, is a form of emotional hygiene in itself.  

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