Digging Your Way to a Happy Life

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. The media was awash with self-help suggestions. It is everywhere at the moment – the need for us to have healthy minds has never been more prominent. It is also more acceptable to talk about mental health and indeed vital in the support of people suffering.

In school we are rightfully focused on the mental wellbeing of the children. We know that a child who is upset or anxious is not going to learn effectively. We are taking the mental health of children seriously at Yateley Manor and that is why we had a presentation from Emma Corbett, a Mental Health First Aid trainer, at the beginning of term. The statistics for children suffering with mental health issues is staggering. Whether the figures have increased over time because we are now more aware of the conditions or people are simply more prepared to admit having a difficulty, it is clear that mental health is a very real concern in the UK now.

Emma spoke about the work she undertakes with young people across the UK and strategies to support them. However, interestingly, she claimed that she is finding more and more that ensuring the mental wellbeing of adults responsible for the children is becoming the focus. She gave the analogy of an emergency on an airplane – put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

Pressures of life can reach levels where there is an impact on us physiologically. Sleep quality can be affected or diet patterns can be jeopardised. If we, as parents, feel under this type of pressure and it is having an impact on us, then it is highly likely there will be an impact on our children. So how do you address your stresses and pressures? Are you able to put your oxygen mask on in order to help your child?

I have three pressure escape hatches. The first is the sea . Having grown up in Hastings I have a sort of affinity with the coast. It does not matter if it is scorching sunshine or blowing a gale with rain beating onto my face, a walk along the beach gives me huge satisfaction and brings an air of complete calm about me. It happens almost instantly.

In keeping with the Harvest Festival this morning, my second release is now gardening. A colleague in my first school said the beauty with gardening is that you cannot do it quickly. It has grown as a passion for me this year. I have grown tomatoes, courgettes (so many that my children now expect courgettes with every meal!), carrots, runner beans, sweetcorn, strawberries, beetroot and potatoes. I spend ages outside in the greenhouse and garden. It is really satisfying to harvest vegetables where I remember sowing the seeds months previously.

According to www.healthy.com there are a number of benefits that gardening provides, including:


  • Providing a great workout
  • Nourishing your spirit
  • Cutting your risk of heart disease
  • Improving self esteem

Finally, for me, cooking is a great release. Spending two hours on a Sunday afternoon preparing food is a luxury but I do not mind the fact that it is eaten in a fraction of the time. It gives me a sense of achievement and probably following the recipe carefully, as I need to do, takes my mind off the demands of work and home life.

Whatever your release, I do believe it is important we model its importance to our children. In the same way that we show good manners and kindness, we also need to show our children that we need to slow down sometimes and give ourselves some space to think and reflect. Life is fast paced nowadays with an immediacy that appears to be ever growing. Balance is the key.

I’m off to the coast tomorrow to get my fix of what is good for me.


Robert Upton