The 21st century has shown us a great deal of confusion, many challenges and even threats not only to human existence and survival as we know it, but also to our planet Earth. Countless traditions, conventions and constructs, and even aspects of our physical environment have already been destroyed, overhauled or are in the process of dismantlement. Societal structures are breaking down and new ones emerge while few of us know how to handle competently and healthily the constant fluctuations, radical shifts and the amount of, frequently contradictory, instantaneous information with which we are inundated. Instead of experiencing certainties and the prospect of growth and expansion, we appear to be immersed in ongoing transitions, shrinking resources and a pervasive attitude of fear and fear-mongering.
Particularly in the Western world, we have learned well to amass material and technological items, but when faced with radical changes or losses, such as loss of family structure, meaningful social connections and seemingly overwhelming choices and expectations, we have not yet learned effective tools to deal with the demands we are facing. Not surprisingly, we tend to adopt rather reactionary attitudes of moving ‘away from’ a situation or ‘being against’ a certain issue.
This is why the GUS programme offers a unique opportunity to move us from a reactionary position to a place of clarity and choice that leads us to express our true identity in this world. Instead of ‘away from’ or ‘being against,’ we can now contemplate what we wish to move ‘towards’ and act upon what we want to ‘be for.’
GUS (Getting UnStressed & UnStuck) is a holistic multi-modal programme that is designed to provide the information and tools necessary to handle current and future life situations in a healthy manner. GUS treats each individual as a whole human being and therefore aims at improving well-being at multiple levels. First, it is designed to manage and reduce stress in a self-directed format, with a selection of specific techniques that address self-concept and experience of anxiety, among others. Second, GUS provides tools to assist in decision-making. These tools can be used as prevention and as intervention in a moment of crisis. Finally, the participants of GUS will discover their own innate resources through which they can create openings and shifts in perspective so that possibilities emerge that transform ‘stuckness’ into flow.
The interactive GUS programme is intended to be delivered to groups because true learning, which manifests as enduring alteration of behaviour, requires not only awareness of new information and a realization of the relevance of this information. Since some of our perceived problems become exacerbated because we feel isolated or alone in our concern, GUS ensures the participants an opportunity to share feelings about each tool and discovery and apply the new information. The programme also encourages the integration of all aspects of the learning into everyday experiences.
The programme is structured in such a way that the participants become completely self-reliant in the use of the techniques, which are taught in an informal experiential setting. Since the programme considers the participant as a whole person, it allows the individuals to reflect on the larger questions of intention, choice, and identity. Unlike many other programmes, GUS offers an approach that affords participants with cognitive and intuitive awareness as well as practical tools to create change from the inside out, a combination that more readily effects change than either component on its own. Because of the educational aspects of lecturing, Socratic teaching style, experiential exercises, sharing by participants, and open discussions in a group setting, in which the practical skills are taught, applied, practiced, and discussed, the adolescents receive the opportunity to realize the immediate impact of their own attitudes and decision-making processes in a safe and nurturing environment.
The qualitative research on the original GUS programme (conducted in 2004), in which over one hundred adolescents participated, demonstrates that the exposure to the programme may positively affect the well-being of adolescents by lowering anxiety levels. The well-being is further improved by the participants’ creating a shift towards a more internal locus of control and a more positive self-concept, both academic and non-academic self-concept. Anecdotal reports strongly support the quantitative findings, and indicate a long-term effect (more than four months) of the results. The current GUS programme has been expanded and strengthened even further. It has now been taught to adults as well with similar results, although only collected and verified anecdotally.
Getting UnStressed & UnStuck (GUS) is a cost-efficient, self-reliant, safe and holistic approach to teaching participants effective techniques to stimulate their sense of well-being. These new tools include creative processes that foster creative and out-of-the-box possibility thinking. The participants learn to identify stressors, recognize outdated and limiting beliefs and behaviours and become aware of options and choices waiting before and within them. Thus, the exposure to the GUS programme enables the participants to handle daily life and stress in a healthy and soulful manner, while gaining insights into the meaning of balance, inner power and wisdom, connectedness and wholeness.