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Controlling the Uncontrollable (Helping Students)

how to control the uncontrollable

How can you help students harness the power of their thoughts and utilise actionable strategies for long-term outcomes? 

In this post, we’ll share some exercises you can use to help students build resilience, navigate the unknown and embrace the power of their thoughts.

We won’t just be listing information. We’ll be providing you with university-wide exercises that are engaging and purposeful – but fun too! To help you feel empowered by bringing solutions to problems and focusing on the next steps with students.

This post also features exclusive extracts and challenges from How to Control the Uncontrollable by Ben Aldridge.

We’ll cover:

Ben’s Lived Experience Holds the Key to Helping Students

Ben Aldridge has lived through the crippling anxiety and knows what it’s like to fear the unknown. So much so, his recent outgoing adventurous reputation as a banana-walking mountaineer who has scaled heights and jumped from aeroplanes – for Ben, it all started with a walk to his park bench. 

Ben’s lived experience and love of Stoicism, have led to him uncovering and harnessing a fundamental belief that allowed him to scale up his self-empowerment and resilience. He’s overcome his crippling anxiety and found comfort in his skin (and mind!).

Ben’s fundamental belief is that leaving our comfort zones (voluntarily!) is the greatest way to build mental strength – and in turn, this has transformed Ben’s life, allowing him to scale up his comfort zone.

“Every single one of us will encounter tough times. There’s no escape. We will all face adversity at some point. Pain, fear, grief, boredom, anger, frustration, and anxiety – they are all part of our lives. This is what it means to be human. But what if there was a way to make these tough times easier? What if we could become more resilient to the challenges of life? The philosophy of Stoicism has a lot to say about this. Packed with wisdom and timeless advice, this ancient school of thought is something I wish I had known about sooner. As it happened, I had to learn the hard way.”

Excerpt FromHow to Control the Uncontrollable by Ben Aldridge

Ben’s lived experience holds the key to helping students do the same. Take baby steps or giant leaps; whatever works for them. Ben’s book maps out challenges that enable students to grow and thrive. 

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

They’ll be many ways students have to cope with being uncomfortable. But this might not come naturally to them and become more of a forced reaction. They’ll likely be living with people they don’t know, moving away from their homes and navigating a new way of living. 

But helping students become comfortable with being uncomfortable teaches them how their thought processes work when things get complicated and how they can develop strategies for dealing with adversity in a controlled environment.

Challenge:

Anti-Bucket List

“Encourage students to create their own ‘anti-bucket list’”. This is a list of things they are apprehensive about or fear. This can include big challenges like heights or smaller challenges like trying a different takeaway.

Then encourage them to think about how they can turn these fears into challenges.

 If a student is afraid of heights, they may want to try and book a climbing session. Apprehensive about trying a new takeaway? Then they can try it with a friend!

“From a young age, these Stoic ideas can help our children and the next generation to develop the resilience to deal with life’s ups and downs. These concepts could be part of their toolkit for dealing with modern life. Personally, I’d encourage a practical approach by getting them to test out these ideas in the real world.” – Ben Aldridge.

Changing a Student’s Perception

As Ben says in his book… “We have to pay careful attention to our minds and their ability to turn mountains into molehills and molehills into mountains.”

As we know, when you change how you think, how you think changes. Giving students the power to think differently, gives them the key to creating the reality they wish to achieve. But how is this possible? Changing a student’s perception and challenging them to become objective in moments they feel frustrated, anxious or unmotivated.

Challenge:

Become Objective

The next time students find themselves stuck with an assignment, on a delayed train or queuing, encourage them to focus on being objective. 

  1. Let the situation unfold without judging it. 
  2. Encourage them to reframe their thoughts and be objective, “I am now stuck on a delayed train.” 
  3. Do not add a “and it’s terrible/I’m going to be late” bit – fight to view everything purely objectively. 
  4. Ensure they stick to the facts and don’t add labels or predict future doom.

You can encourage students to expand this exercise by applying it to every situation they face, every difficult person they encounter or anything that doesn’t go “their way”. Inspire students to remain objective when things don’t go to plan or they encounter negativity.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Embracing Setbacks

Setbacks are an inevitable part of being human, and students are likely to experience these throughout university. Especially if they’re struggling with their mental health, and this has an impact on their studies.

Inspire students to see setbacks as exciting challenges and an opportunity to test their ability at transforming an obstacle into something great.

Challenge

The Control List

Encourage students to write a list of all the things that are within their control and all of the things that aren’t when they face a difficult situation or setback.

“From this, help them create a plan based solely on the things that are within their control. Guide them to focus their attention on these things only.” After all, that’s all that matters – the present moment.

Dealing With Overwhelming Emotions

Life is an emotional rollercoaster. Students will likely encounter many emotions during their time at university. Stress, anxiety, jealousy, overwhelm, anger, grief and many other emotions will crop up. 

Giving students the tools to embrace their emotions, and control them effectively, builds their resilience and gives them actionable ways to embrace the unknown and tackle their feelings head-on. Allowing them to feel empowered on campus and outside.

Challenge

Count to 10 (AND THEN AGAIN) + Distraction

When students encounter strong and overwhelming emotions encourage them to delay reacting and instead get them to count to 10, and again.

“A distraction tactic also works very well. Games like Tetris/logic-based games/crosswords/chess/sudoku etc. can be a fantastic way to get students out of the emotional part of their minds and into the logical part of their minds. They can even download some apps on their phone and test them out when things start getting intense.”

The Ultimate Mental Health Toolkit and Wellbeing Partner

We can help you harness the power of Ben’s lived experience to help students overcome anxiety and build a resilient growth mindset. 

BiblioSpace provides a platform that translates the strategies in Ben’s book into actionable strategies for life on campus. We are providing early intervention with humanised resources that work. 

BiblioSpace is more than a resource bank. It’s a toolkit, available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day – accessible anywhere and anytime. For more information, contact Stuart – [email protected], or book your demo now. We look forward to hearing from you!

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