A Message from Ros Wilson

A message to educators from Ros Wilson.

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Dress to Suppress (the Monotony)

To relish the decadence of spending the days in pyjamas or to get yourself brushed and dressed? Senior Education Psychologist, Jenny Feeney, of Bucks County Council, argues that what we choose to wear is more significant than we might realise.

I hate running. But I consider it a necessary evil as it is free and can fit around my schedule. My first attempts at running came when I was living in Camden. I found running around streets that were populated 24-7 entirely embarrassing… and I gave up quickly. Finally, I decided to buy myself some actual running gear. It seemed strange but the mere act of putting on my running clothes gave me the anonymity I needed. I suddenly felt that people probably didn’t assume I was crazy or wonder why I was running around the streets but assumed that I was in fact a ‘runner’. And I felt, for those 30 minutes twice a week, that just maybe, I was a ‘runner’.

Like it or not, clothes play an important role in our social interactions. Clothes provide our brain with cues to people’s behaviours – think, ‘Oh that man is walking up to the house because he is a postal worker’ versus ‘Why is that man walking up to the house?’ And research shows clothes may even influence our own behaviour. Those who know me at work may have spotted my adherence to this view. They may recognise the range of outfits I wear for different roles; the suited and booted leader outfits for big events; the gender neutral shirt and jacket for working with secondary schools; the softer, brighter jumpers and dresses for primary schools; and the dangly earrings and long skirts for when I just plain need to channel the airy fairy psychologist :). My clothes allow me to project myself into who or what I need to be each day.

And so, even in lockdown I continue to use clothing to help me navigate that ‘groundhog day’ feeling. My full running gear comes out to help me match Joe Wicks’ energy during his daily torture sessions. My work clothes go on to remind my brain that even though I am sitting on my bed, I am in fact at work. And on Saturday nights, myself and my two little girls get our glad rags on… because lockdown or not the Feeney girls enjoy a party at the weekend.

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It’s OK Not To Be OK

A blog by Jenny Murray, CAMHS Link Psychologist for Aspire AP, Bucks.

I had a very irrational response last week to not being able to join a meeting online. Technology. This is a new problem, I cannot blame the traffic! I just couldn’t get it to work and I got really cross...with nobody, because there was nobody to get cross with. The computer said no!

Luckily, humour is never far from my reach and I managed to laugh at myself and then had a lovely conversation with the meeting organiser. I shared my crazy five minutes with her, inviting us both to laugh at me and reflecting that everyone seems a little more sensitive than usual lately. National emergency, life threatening, collective trauma, crisis, disaster, catastrophic loss, uncertainty. These are the messages we are hearing day in, day out.

The overarching message is that we are not safe going about our lives as we were. We have to change everything. We don’t have past experiences to draw upon, to help us to navigate through this, we have never experienced anything like this before. We don’t really understand how things will be in the future, what the time frames are or what ‘normal’ will actually look like in the future.

For now, we are adjusting to a new normal that feels alien and frankly very strange. This situation is impacting on all aspects of our lives. Social media and remote ways of staying connected can be both a blessing and a curse. Sharing humour, positivity and support, connecting communities, supporting the more vulnerable and generally reaching out to each other and doing what we were told we should be doing some weeks ago – being kind.

On the down side there can be an implicit message in all the positivity sharing, that if you are not feeling OK, that is not OK. What concerns me somewhat is that we are hearing not just about threats to our physical health and that of the people we care about, but also to our mental health. I say this cautiously, as I would not want to invalidate people’s experiences of poor mental health or to downplay the potential impact on our wellbeing; but distressing experiences lead to distressing feelings.

It is entirely understandable to feel sad, worried, fearful and uncertain during times of uncertainty and when there is a very real threat that we are constantly reminded of. We are adjusting to something we have no template for. Many of us in the professions we work in are ‘do-ers’ and ‘fixers’. We help people learn and grow and feel better; we nurture and coach. It speaks to our core values. It feels important and meaningful and it feels like this is what we should be doing, because ultimately helping others helps us. So now, many are feeling that they lack purpose they feel guilty and a little lost. We express this in different ways. My daughter (9) asked me on Easter Sunday if I was able to speak to people I knew who were in Heaven. I asked her why and she said she wants to know if it is OK up there. When I go to the shop she calls me after about fifteen minutes, “When will you be back mummy, I miss you”. Fifteen minutes....

We are all in this together but our stories are not the same, so while we adjust and find comfort in collective experiences and connections with others that are either entirely new or are strengthened, we should bear in mind that it is OK not to feel OK. Yes, it is helpful to have a structure to your day, and get exercise, read more, get the jobs done we haven’t done and start that new hobby... this is the real world, some days it is OK not to feel OK, to not give in to the ‘should do’s’ and to ask ourselves, what do I need, just for now? The rule book has been thrown out, we are writing a new one. If ever there was a time to put your own mask on before attending to someone else’s, it is now.

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