Stress and anxiety have come under the spotlight in recent years as a leading cause of depression and reduced life satisfaction. The Ready For Life program aims to empower teenagers and teach them skills and techniques to better cope with the life pressures that they may encounter. Although the program is still quite new, the preliminary data has shown that through running the program in schools there has been an increase in well-being and happiness in participants.
In Denmark, anxiety is now number one reason adults over 25 year are getting work assistance payments with depression in the third position. Now more than ever, it is vital to address these growing concerns and empower future generations with the tools to thrive in an ever-changing and challenging world.
Denmark are already noticing that students are cracking under the pressures to perform to unrealistic levels, feeling that high achievements are what’s expected of them. The truth is that quite often these expectations aren’t placed on them from their parents or peers. They come from feelings within and how they see themselves fitting in in the world around them.
In the past, the mental health focus has always been on using zero as a marker for normal and as people move into minus 1, minus 2, minus 3 etc. then we say they need help but only with the aim to get them back to zero. The idea of taking someone beyond zero into the positives is more the work of well-being and the work that Ready For Life is trying to encourage.
A lot of the work being done with the program, focuses on people's character strengths and working on their own sense of who they are and what good qualities they possess. Not focusing on the stress or what type of stress someone is or will eventually go through, it’s the way they deal and cope with those stresses. The Ready for Life program focuses on teaching these life coping skills with the idea that they will be well equipped to deal with future pressures any young person may face.
They’ve also looked at childhood based patterns that show how even small events, even as a child, could determine how you react, reflect and cope with situations. The program helps students explore self determination theory to allow them to better understand whether they are inner motivated or outer motivated and how to explain what happens to you and why you feel or react a certain way.
One of the interesting parts of the program is the idea of awareness, not just of ourselves but the people around us. By taking the time and energy to pay attention to others and their mindset, we can have a direct impact on someone else's well-being. An exercise we did, was to write down something nice we can 'do' and something positive we can 'say' to someone else to increase their well-being. These ideas were then written down on post-its and stuck to the wall. As we left, we were able to take one from the 'do' and one from the 'say' and implement those positive actions that day.
The Ready for Life program is a huge step forward in self development. It’s something that will add great value to children and young adults of all ages as they move through their schooling and the general pressures that are associated with those years. This will help them forge a future full of mindfulness and self understanding to prepare them for whatever their future delivers and ensure they develop meaningful relationships along the way.
A Final Thought
How do you view your life when you look back on it? Is it in a positive or negative light? If you were to tell your life story how would you tell it? Would it be based around the struggles and hardships you’ve faced or would you highlight how the tough times made you who you are today?
James van der Straaten