Completing Your Educational Journey
(Continued from 1)
Use a Journal
Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the beginning or end of each day. Use this time to write in a journal or online personal blog. Feel free to rant about the situation, express fears and doubts, or dwell on daily events. Write quickly and do not linger over each page. Do not worry about proper grammar and sentence structure. As time progresses, you will notice changes in your writing style and content. Solutions will slowly emerge and may help you to improve your present situation. Think of the journal as your own personal sounding board. Once you get those negative thoughts on paper, you will feel stronger and more able to meet the day’s challenges. When the crisis has been resolved, you may find it rewarding to re-read your journal entries and note the personal growth. Alternatively, you may wish to achieve closure by destroying the journal and moving on to the next chapter of your life.
Update Your Action Plan
Nothing is carved in stone. This old cliché comes in handy whenever you are in crisis mode. While it is important to set goals and create doable action plans, these must be examined and revised on a regular basis. In my case, a two year plan stretched out into five years. Since I couldn’t take more than one course per trimester, I found myself focusing more on the material and getting more out of the assignments. When I took off a trimester, I spent time reading the texts and recommended material for future courses.
Stay in the Moment
Spiritual leader Byron Katie said it best: “If you want fear on purpose, get a future. If you want shame get a past.” Neither situation is ideal. Instead, cultivate mindfulness and enjoy whatever you are doing in the present moment. For example, if you are spending quality time with your child or spouse, do not worry about the assignment that is due next week or feel guilty about the tuna casserole you have been serving for three days in a row. Take up one sport or hobby that forces you to pay attention. For example, when you play tennis, you must be aware of everything that is happening. You do not have time to worry about the shot you missed because another is coming right back at you. Similarly, you must concentrate when you play card games such as bridge or poker. If your attention strays, you risk losing the game.
Treat Yourself Kindly
It is so easy to automate your life with task lists and calendars. At times, it may feel like your life consists solely of assignments, tests, work obligations and family responsibilities. Try to incorporate one small change in your daily routine. Take a different route to work and focus on the new streets and landscape. Change your eating habits by trying a new recipe or restaurant. Buy or borrow a book on a topic that you don’t usually read about but that interests you.
Whenever you feel anxious, just deeply and calmly breathe in and out. As you draw your next breath, focus on the rise of your abdomen on the "in" breath and feel the sensation of the air as it fills your lungs and leaves through your nostrils. Clear your mind of any negative thoughts and focus on something positive and beautiful. Release expectations. It doesn’t always have to be done perfectly and by you.
For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario, Canada. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in Canadian newspapers and online. Joanne holds bachelors' degrees in both mathematics and education.