What one piece of advice do you wish you’d been told when you were younger?
One of the things you become starkly aware of, when working with young people in a mental health capacity, is the overwhelming fear of failure so many of them shoulder during this life stage. Indeed, when I look back on my own experiences as a young person, so much of what held me back, dominated my thoughts, censored my actions and stifled me from being my true, authentic self was this understandable yet all-consuming human fear of getting things wrong.
In his 2016 bestselling book “Black Box Thinking”, Matthew Syed uses case examples from the aviation industry to illustrate how failure is not only a useful, but an integral factor in helping humans to learn from their mistakes and move forwards in a more positive and productive direction. In a similar respect, at Empire Fighting Chance we aim to support children and young people to develop positive coping strategies, enhance their resilience levels and face this fear of failure through harnessing the power of non-contact boxing. Below are our top 5 tips, taken from our experiences working with non-contact boxing, that can be used to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people:
Try something new – One of the biggest positive changes young people notice when coming to Empire Fighting Chance for the first time is the feeling of pride and achievement they experience simply having inhabited a different environment, engaged with someone they might not have met before and tried something new.
Develop a weekly routine – However big or small, structure and routine can be all important factors in supporting young people to experience a sense stability, consistency and calm in their everyday lives. Simply having one activity that they do at the same time, with the same person and in the same setting each week can help to enhance wellbeing and create a stronger sense of feeling in control.
Identify your strengths and use them – A key feature of being young is that, sooner or later, you’ll have to engage in an activity you don’t excel at. However, research has shown that, regardless of the task or challenge at hand, if we can be supported in identifying our top strengths and use them as often as possible in everyday life, we’ll be much more likely to strengthen our sense of wellbeing, regardless of the outcome.
Experience, embrace and learn from failure – One of the first things young people often do when they come to our gym is apologise for not being good at boxing. Yet, where would we be in life if we only ever engaged in activities we were good at? In the work we do at Empire Fighting Chance, we continually encourage young people to explore new things, make mistakes and, rather than shamefully covering them up, openly discussing the insights gained and lessons learned from getting things wrong.
Be the change you want to see – When we think back to being young, it’s likely that one of the biggest factors impacting on our mental health was linked to how the key adult figures in our lives role-modelled dealing with their own challenges. As such, one of the most valuable things you can do to support young people is to role model being yourself, facing your fears and openly exploring what you’ve learnt from the experience. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.
Happy Youth Mental Health Day everyone.
Cat Taylor – Boxing Therapy Manager, Empire Fighting Chance