We’ve been looking at Mental Health this week at Oxford High. Whilst I am no fan of artificially orchestrated events I think that there are benefits of highlighting topics for everyone at certain times – as long as we try them out for longer than a week if they help us.
I do like, however, the way that this program (and you can find more here) focusses especially on positive strategies to keep us well. This year the focus is on nature and the way that a walk through nature, a sensory journey of hands grazing the bark of trees or following the sway of the tendrils of leaves in the wind can refresh and soothe the soul.
This really came home to me this week as I went out to shout on Oxford High during the inaugural cricket and tennis matches held with another school from Abingdon (and, yes, our teams did very well) as well as athletics too. Sport and being outdoors are both really helpful for keeping us healthy and, whilst it is exciting to be able to be competitive at sports (and win), it is absolutely fundamental for every one of us to find a sport that we just simply enjoy even if we aren’t particularly proficient.
As we emerge like blinking moles into the daylight we must pick up, again, these habits of reconnecting and engaging with the world of nature and one another to balance the commensurate pressure that our new reality is asking of us, whether that’s the removal of face coverings or the re-emergence of Covid variants. Of course one week will not do this for us, but regular and constant habit will. I was looking for a metaphor to illustrate how repeated building of tiny daily actions helps to create something exceptional and, suitably for a week focussed on nature, found this. These towering structures, which easily dwarf the average woman, are built by something absolutely tiny through persistent, and tenacious practice. Although this week focussed on mental health is only one week, trying out these strategies every day, and keeping going, will eventually provide self sufficiency and protection through the challenges and demands of the next few months and years ahead. The best education teaches that while learning about the world, we learn more, ultimately about ourselves and one another.
‘Presume thyself not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man (or woman in this case.)’
Mrs Gardiner Legge