“A head full of fears has no space for dreams”

We want young people to live life in all of its fullness and so when we hear that more young people than ever before are struggling with anxiety, holding them back from reaching their potential, we want to do something about it.

Over the past 6 months we have been developing and piloting a new support programme geared around this topic, in response to the increasing need that we have seen in our local schools. It is a need that is also sadly reflected nationally… A recent survey by leading children’s mental health charity Place 2 Be reported that 93% of school leaders say that pupils bring more worries into school than they did five years ago.

And it feels like daily we are seeing reports in the paper around increasing levels of anxiety in children and young people. Check out this article from The Telegraph which has some eye-opening statistics on NHS figures.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion, one that helps us to avoid dangerous situations and motivates us to do our best under pressure, but when it becomes extreme it can become a debilitating disorder. Too many young people are crossing over that boundary into unhelpful, destructive levels of worry and anxiety that are having a negative impact not only on their school performance but on their enjoyment of life.

So what have we been doing at Phase to combat this?

Last term we piloted a new 8-week course called “Managing Anxiety” to be delivered in a small group context to students who are struggling. Being part of a group helps the students to realise that they are not alone in what they experience and provides mutual support and encouragement that can continue beyond the course. The course not only explains anxiety in a way that helps students to understand themselves more, it introduces new thinking styles and breathing techniques that can be learned and implemented in anxious situations.

Here’s a snippet that we can share with you: try 7/11 breathing to regain composure. Breathe in through your nose for 7 counts and out through your mouth for 11 counts, noticing the relaxing effect that this has on the muscles in your body. It is important to breathe out for longer than you breathe in and it is important to practice this daily so that it becomes a habit and easier to employ when you are stressed. I wonder how you got on?

10/11 students who took part in our Managing Anxiety group reported a reduction in their levels of anxiety by the end of the course and an improvement in their overall wellbeing. We are really pleased with those results and are looking forward to supporting many more young people in this way. This term we have kicked off another group who are already making great progress and we are excited to see what changes happen for them.

We have also received requests for staff training in this area and so we have created and delivered sessions for staff where we have shared some of the resources and strategies that we have found helpful, equipping them to better support the students who they come into contact with. Equipping others allows us to reach more young people and make a bigger difference. We received some really encouraging feedback on this training, one member of staff wrote to us: “I feel am now more aware of anxiety & this will enable me to 'see' the signs in the students I support.”