Chloe posts

Failure

One of my favourite teachers from school had a poster on his wall that read “fail – first attempt in learning.”

He viewed failures as nothing more than a bump in the road, a stepping stone towards later success.

But even if failures are only first attempts in learning, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. It is incredibly difficult to face failures, especially if we fail at something we really care about, or something we think we’re good at.

But unfortunately, no life is free of failure. We all are only human, and it’s completely natural and inevitable to fail at things from time to time. Being afraid of failing and viewing mistakes in a negative light will only do more harm than good. Luckily, it is what you do to pick up the pieces and put things back together again that counts.

It is our failures and mistakes that help us to learn and grow, then adapt and change our tack so that we can do better next time. Everybody has to start somewhere, and failing is nothing to be ashamed of.

It is helpful to avoid viewing failure in “black and white” or “all-or-nothing” terms. Although we may feel that we have failed, and that things have played out horrendously, it is likely that not everything has gone badly, and there may be a lesson to be learned amidst it all.

When things aren’t going so smoothly for me, I find it’s helpful to remember that everybody who has succeeded has also failed. Even the most successful people have failed at things, and several famous people were first high school drop outs. Life is full of second chances and new opportunities, and none of us can succeed at everything, all of the time.

Although it’s difficult, it’s important for us to try and change the way we think about failure. Instead of seeing it as a setback, we should try and use failure and criticism constructively to push us further.

I have heard about a stress management strategy called compensation, which involves building up other areas of your life, to compensate for the areas you feel you’re failing in. So if you feel that you’re failing at work, for example, working on other areas of your life such as your hobbies and your social life could be a good step to take. This then allows you to think “so work might be going badly, but at least I have my guitar playing, which is going well, and my social life is good. I’m really enjoying spending time with my family at the moment, and I have a good circle of friends around me.” This can be a useful tool, to help lighten the shadow that failure casts, and to help you to feel as though you’re succeeding in other areas of your life that you care about.

Generally, it’s good to make sure that you also consider the things you’re good at, alongside the things you feel you could improve on. Reflecting on failures and using them to improve is so much better than constantly going over them in your head and berating yourself for them.

Chloe posts

Success

Success is something we all strive for. Most of us want to get the highest grades we can, pass with flying colours, and land the job we dream about. Wanting to succeed in life isn’t a bad thing.

However, if striving for success begins to take over, or it becomes the only thing that matters, this can be really problematic.

It is important to have a balance, and no set of exams should ever be more important than living your life. You shouldn’t put your life on hold for anything. You only have this one life, and your health and happiness needs to be your first priority.

The price to pay for success can sometimes be too high, and though it may feel great to achieve things, there are times when it is more crucial to slow down, and put your health first. Sometimes it is more important to take a break for a while, instead of pushing yourself to breaking point. If something is making you feel poorly, draining your energy, or it is taking you away from everything you once loved, it is not worth it and it never will be.

Society has a very narrow definition of success and achievement. It makes us feel that we should constantly be striving to do better and be better. It transmits the message that we must get better grades, a better job, a better house, a better car, and then we will finally be happy. But success isn’t only found in A*’s. Success can be brilliant relationships, overcoming something that once scared us, or enjoying a day out with family and friends. Being happy is a success, as is feeling comfortable in your own skin, getting through a bad day, or finding something new that you love doing.

You won’t get this time back again, so if anything is preventing you from being happy and enjoying yourself, be brave, take a deep breath, and let it go. If it is truly the right choice for you and it is something you really want to do, it will still be there waiting for you when the time is right/when you are feeling more like yourself again. Don’t feel bad for giving yourself time to do a bit less work, and a bit more life! Here is a poem by Beatrice Robertson that really illustrates the point I’m trying to make. I love it so much!

A girl who didn’t stop:

Let me tell the tale
Of a girl who didn’t stop;
Who climbed on every mountain

Without a pause when on the top.

She’d dance in every blade of grass

Until each one was covered in dew;
The sun knew her by name

But the silver moon did, too.

For a fear had settled in her bones,

A fear of sitting still;
That if you’re not moving forward

It must mean you never will.

So in time, her dance got slower

And she looked at all she’d seen;
But found gaps inside the places

That she’d never fully been.

For she was a human doing,

Human moving, human seeing;
But she had really never taken the time
To be a human being
Happy February!
Chloe posts

Coping with Stress

Few of us cope well when we are stressed. The most put-together, organised person may still be prone to crumbling under pressure. Stress occurs when the demands of the situation are greater than our perceived ability to cope with it, and none of us are immune to the effects of stress. It can weaken our immune system and cause stomach aches, colds, and headaches, yet we still persist with work and projects that trigger our stress responses. Though it is practically impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many strategies we can use to try and cope a little better with it. Here are a few tips and techniques to try:

Problem-focused coping vs avoidant coping

Distraction techniques such as having a bath, relaxing, and doing something you enjoy can be helpful, but they can often lead us to avoid the stressful situation, rather than face it. In the past I’ve found that when I cope with my stress by avoiding it, the stress reappears as soon as I’ve stopped distracting myself. For example, if I’m stressed about a difficult assignment, and I spend the day socialising to avoid thinking about it, the stress will come back once I’m on my own again. Problem-focused coping means thinking about the root cause of your stress and identifying steps you can take immediately to solve the problem. If I’m stressed about work, I’ve found it’s far better to be pro-active by writing a plan, e-mailing my tutor for help, or getting started on it, rather than distracting myself and pretending that the work doesn’t exist. However, when we are incredibly overwhelmed and stressed, thinking of solutions to the problem can seem an impossible, insurmountable task. Distraction techniques can be helpful when we feel this way, because they allow us to improve our mood so that we feel able to get started.

Avoid taking too much on

Having high standards of ourselves can be wonderful, because it means that we’re challenging ourselves. However, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, and taking on more than you can handle. If you find that you have more things to do than time to do it all in, it can be useful to remove a few activities from your to-do list so that you can quickly reduce the number of things you are worried about. If this is difficult, try thinking about your values and the things that matter to you most. It can be helpful to make a list with 3 sections: things that I must do, things that I like to do occasionally, and things that I do not like to do. You might find that your life is very cluttered, and you are wasting a lot of time doing something you do not enjoy (scrolling through social media, getting distracted by the television…). You may realise that you could swap the half hour you spend scrolling through social media in the morning, for something more enjoyable and productive. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to be assertive and say no to things that don’t appeal to you/activities you don’t have time for. It is your life and your time to spend how you please, and protecting your mental health will always be more important than pleasing other people!

Think about the situation from another person’s perspective

It’s easy to become our own worst enemies, and this can become even easier when we’re stressed. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about all the things we said we would do but didn’t do and ruminate about everything we are worried about. But this style of thinking isn’t productive for anybody, and it only serves to attract more negative thoughts. Thinking about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation and practicing self-compassion can be useful to combat these thoughts, and it helps us to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Focus on what you can change

There are some stressful situations that we can change. We can cancel going to a social event that is worrying us or change jobs to one that won’t stress us out so much. We can control how we react in situations, where we work, what we say, and how we act. There are other stressful and worrying events that we are powerless to change. We cannot control the disturbing events on the news, what other people say about us or the way that they act, so it is pointless to spend lots of time worrying about these things.

 

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