Today is Blue Monday, the ‘most depressing day of the year’. The term was coined in 2004 by a psychologist who claimed the combination of factors like the weather, low motivation and the time since Christmas made the third Monday of January the bluest day of the year.

Whether you buy into Blue Monday or not, it provides an opportunity to reflect on our mental
wellbeing and what we can do to look after ourselves and those around us. We all know by now that COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact on the wellbeing of society and, in particular, the mental health of young people.

I founded the Jon Egging Trust (JET) in 2012 to support vulnerable young people at significant risk of dropping out of education, to get back on track and realise their potential. JET’s learning programmes are based on the four cornerstones of inspiration, teamwork, employability and leadership. In 2018, JET was established in Hampshire in partnership with NATS. Since then, we’ve run numerous Blue Skies and Inspirational Outreach programmes supporting young people from the region and we continue to work with NATS, encouraging young people to build skills for life and offering a unique window into the world of STEM.

One of our current focuses at JET is to provide advice to young people and schools on how to look after mental wellbeing through these times of uncertainty. Last week, I spoke to Katie Fisher, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist in the NATS Human Performance team, and Marie Chandler, Director of Quality, Health, Safety and Wellbeing at NATS, to find out about NATS’ approach to emotional resilience and what they’ve learnt about building resilience which could help the young people we support. This is what I discovered…

How is emotional resilience approached at NATS?

Emotional resilience is an important trait in any workplace as it allows individuals to adapt to stressful situations, not least for air traffic controllers who work in a high-pressure environment every day.

NATS recognises that resilient people tend to cope better with stress, so they invest time in ensuring that their controllers are supported in developing their emotional resilience. Their approach follows the ‘Robertson Cooper’ model and they focus on coaching their trainees in the areas this model highlights as essential components of resilience: social support, adaptability, flexibility, purposefulness and confidence.

One way that NATS encourages controllers, particularly trainees, to develop emotional resilience is by reflecting on their strengths and development areas, as well as on situations they find particularly stressful. Reflection, and understanding and managing stress triggers, is a valuable tool in increasing self-awareness, allowing individuals to set goals, build confidence and to discover new strengths.

How can you develop emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience isn’t a personality trait, it’s something anyone can develop. Whilst some of us might be naturally more resilient than others, often in response to the experiences we have been through, all of us can increase our resilience with the right tools.

Young people need emotional tool-kits to help them step outside the circumstances they find
themselves in. Self-awareness, understanding and celebrating their strengths do not always come naturally. The work that JET does is focused on building life skills that enable young people to review the challenges they face, celebrate the journey they are on, and the progress they are making as well as appreciate their strengths, talents and capabilities. Building resilient young people who are confident and adaptable can only benefit our future world.

At JET, we know there is a need for more resources specific to young people made available through schools that speak to the specific needs of young people during and post Covid-19. Through our work with our partner organisations, including NATS, we’re developing ‘JET Inspired’ an online learning platform for schools and individuals to teach life skills such as resilience and the importance of goal setting, this platform will be launched later in the coming months.

However, there are plenty of simple ways you can support your emotional wellbeing based on NATS’ approach to resilience. For example:

  • Make use of your support network. It may not be face-to-face, but keep in touch with people regularly for a video call or to play a game
  • Create a sense of purposefulness by keeping a consistent routine
  • Set yourself goals. Think about what you are trying to achieve but realise that you are not
    going to get there in one step. Break down your goal into achievable milestones and
    congratulate yourself when you achieve each one.
  • Keep a daily journal as a place to reflect. Perhaps write down something you’re grateful for, or something you did well each day

You can find out more about the work NATS does with the Jon Egging Trust on our website.


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