I’m not talking about helmet hair but helmet fire! Helmet fire seems to be a term coined by psychologists but is not in wide use. An article referencing Brendan Hickey in Communique, January/February 2021 describes helmet fire as: “a condition that occurs when people are working hard for long hours under lots of pressure, making decisions under time constraints, analysing too much information, and dealing with uncertainty, fear and sadness. This can result in shutting down entirely; being busy with unproductive work – for example, organising and reorganising – and avoiding key tasks; sticking to initial decisions even when conditions have changed; focusing on one thing to the exclusion of everything else.”
Will Gadd describes it another way by saying helmet fire is any situation where the space between our ears stops working. He says, “it’s so descriptive of the times when we just stop thinking about the exterior world or “reality” and burn up in a mental paroxysm of self-fueled mental combustion.”
By the end of Term 4, teachers, staff, parents and even students are susceptible to helmet fire. However, by the time you are reading this I’m hoping you have replaced your helmet fire with a holiday hat and are ready to enjoy some enjoyable R and R with your family.
Research shows that those who survive and thrive in emergency situations show playfulness, curiosity, flexibility, humour, empathy and intuition. Another study noted the importance of tolerating uncertainty and setting priorities.
The holidays will be gone before we know it and some of you will be working right through them with the extra demands of the season on top of your normal full load.
Please take whatever downtime you can to prioritise simple times with your family and friends. Focus on what really matters and discard everything else. The house does not have to be spotless for guests, the food doesn’t have to be fancy or home made and the decorations do not have to be perfectly colour coordinated. However, your family needs you to be ‘present’ with them. This means not only being with them physically but giving them your full attention.
Be gentle with yourself and especially to others who may also be suffering from helmet fire, finding themselves more cranky than usual. Be especially kind in shopping car parks and to our retail workers who seem to be receiving more abuse than ever these days.
Modelling what is really important and showing kindness to others in times of stress will not only help you feel better but is a great example to your children. It is important that they grow up knowing that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus with friends and family and not about the stress of having everything perfect.
If you focus on what is important you will be giving the gift of a stress-free Christmas to your family. When your children grow up to host their own gatherings, they will remember the fun times of laughter and maybe a few special treats but they aren’t going to remember if the table looked perfect or if the bathrooms were clean.
Now is the time to take off your helmet fire and put on the party hat!
I do wish you all a wonderful Christmas and look forward to seeing you back at school in 2022.
Mike Curtis, Principal