"Welcome to Refresh – a space where you can reflect on the year, acknowledge the difficulties, celebrate your achievements and look forward with hope.”

22nd July 2021

Refresh – helping young people to reflect on a stressful year

“It’s been a year like no other.”

“There have been challenges and difficult times, but also special moments and new discoveries.”

“Welcome to Refresh – a space where you can reflect on the year, acknowledge the difficulties,
celebrate your achievements and look forward with hope.”

With these words on the screen, we introduced hundreds of young people across four state secondary schools to a lesson on calming techniques, conversations about life since the first lockdown and some hands-on activities for personal reflection.

From our work with schools and with young people throughout the pandemic, we knew that many of them would value some kind of ‘moment’ to pause and think about their experience of it in a way that helped them to move on positively. Refresh was created around this very specific theme and gave students the opportunity to engage in four ways.

  • Lamentation – expressing sadness about disappointments and loss by writing onto torn up cardboard and leaving it in a basket. “What do you want to let go of?”
  • Discovery – we wrote seven statements on acrylic mirrors to inspire positive memories from the past year, things like new skills learned, or a stronger connection with someone. “What do you want to hold onto”
  • Hopes and Dreams – writing onto slips of paper their hopes and dreams for their own life and for the world we live in. “What do you hope for?”
  • The Storm is Passing – The final activity was to choose one from four Charley Mackesy drawings on postcards, each with a positive message about persevering. We encouraged the young people to write on the back their positive memories from the last year and half and to put the postcard somewhere where they could see it at home as a reminder.

The responses were not altogether surprising. Top laments tended to be not seeing family and friends, the death of someone close to them and the negative impact on their mental health. Top hopes and dreams for themselves were generally to do with a good career and improvement in their own health, while the most common hopes for the world were for the end of covid, that we address pollution and climate change, and that we overcome inequality and racism.

  • “It’s nice to have a safe place to write about what I never want to say out loud.”
  • “Refresh is a very therapeutic way to let go of feelings and it has a very positive safe atmosphere.”

During the interactive part of the lesson (and from behind our masks!), we had many very open and honest conversations with young people about their struggles and achievements since that premature end to the spring term in 2020. One Year 8 girl spoke powerfully about how one of the calming techniques was one she was already finding helpful in managing her panic attacks. But we hope most of all that many of these young people’s experiences of Refresh will echo those of another student who, as they were walking out, said to the friend next to them, “After that, I feel so much better.”