When was the last time you spent 24 hours of your day with your spouse or your children? This pandemic has made that a reality, for all of us.

In the beginning of this circuit breaker, some of us rejoiced at the time we would get to spend with our families, especially our children. 4 weeks in, not so much.

Research has shown that this quarantine can mess up our emotions. Losing our sense of routine, replaced with feelings of being trapped. Sparking boredom, frustration, irritability, loneliness, stress or even anger.

The fact that we are home all the time, unable to grab a coffee with a friend, go to the gym or have our favourite bubble tea, or any of our usual forms of release, only magnifies our internal tension. As adults, though we are capable of self-control, we still struggle with not letting our emotions take over our actions and words. More often than not, they sometimes spill over in our interactions with the people who are closest to us.

In the same way, our children are experiencing the same emotions as us, except that they may not be able to articulate or as effectively manage what they are feeling.

They are able to understand tangible realities like the fact that they cannot see their friends anymore, that the number of COVID-19 cases are rising each day, that they cannot buy their favourite food or snacks, the change in the way they have to learn. These external influences put a demand on their emotional well-being and could lead to anxiety.

Their self-awareness has not fully developed yet, which means that they do not entirely understand their emotional response to these realities; what they are feeling or why they are feeling it. This may result in behaviour that we do not expect, or have never seen previously.

It could look like your child crying over things that usually would not affect them, seemingly minor incidents, like losing a game they were playing, or that their pencil is not sharp enough. Perhaps they get easily irritated when someone is speaking too loudly in the house. When you ask a simple question like, “what are you doing?”, they react as if you are interrogating. Maybe they spend long periods of time in their room without interacting with you. They do things to provoke their siblings more often, or become fussier with what they will and will not eat. They follow you around wherever you go, or they ask way too many questions that they expect you to answer even when you are visibly busy.

In response, we sometimes hear ourselves say, “why are you so nice to your friends but with me you are…”. The truth is, when our children act up, show a tantrum, lash out or are rude to us, it also signals to us that they feel comfortable and safe to show that side of themselves to you. It may not always be a bad thing for them to express their negative emotions.

As parents, we do our best to understand our children’s’ behaviour, because we want to help them. Sometimes we are unable to do much because we do not know how to approach them, or they do not know how to respond to us.

We might even find ourselves in a vicious cycle where their anger triggers our own, and we end up in an escalating shouting match.

This does not have to be the case. When we respond in a way that they do not expect, we throw in a circuit breaker. Much like how the COVID-19 CB has disrupted our lives, this circuit breaker disrupts the potential heated argument, and turns it into teachable moments for our children.

In order to help you facilitate these conversations with your children, whether it is to build your relationship with them, or to help them navigate their thoughts and feelings, here are some tools that you can use to communicate better with them:

CREATING A SAFE SPACE

When speaking to your children, especially about things that are more personal, like their feelings, it is necessary that they feel safe to share them with you.

If you scolded them for something they did or got frustrated with them, it is alright to not rectify it at that moment. When our emotions are high, we are not in a state to listen to anybody. As parents, we have nuggets of wisdom to share with our children so that they can become the best versions of themselves.

However, when they are emotionally frustrated or hurt, that wisdom is short changed because they are not ready to listen. Anything that we say can come off as a personal attack to them or taken out of context.

What matters is that we create a safe space: calm, dessert (optional but preferable), conversation friendly.

Remind them that there is no correct or wrong answer. It is a time and space where you and your child can be vulnerable and not be judged for it.

As they share, we should bite our tongue and avoid commenting on what they are sharing. With every word they share, they are also testing the boundary to see how much they can open up or how much they should hold back. When we respond too quickly without allowing them to finish, they may not feel like they can be honest with you.

Most importantly, we should keep to our word and not let our objections show, or act defensive, especially if their sharing may imply something negative about us. It is not a time to point out their flaws or find fault. It is a time where we seek to understand them better.

VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS

After we have created a safe space for them, they will begin sharing what they are feeling and going through. It is not easy for them or anyone to share things that we are not proud of or things that make us feel small or think negatively about ourselves. When they make themselves vulnerable, do validate their feelings.

Phrases that echo what they are feeling like, “that must have been very difficult for you to go through” or “it must have been very frustrating when that happened”, gives them the confidence to share more.

Affirm them for being brave enough to share. Listen to what they are saying. When we acknowledge and validate their feelings, we help to build their self-esteem. We empower them to accept both their positive and negative feelings, and to not always act on it. Instead of judging with the benefit of hindsight, how they could have handled the situation better, help them see that it is okay to err, and they do not have to be afraid to try again.

CHECK-INS AND CHECK-OUTS

Questions like “how are you feeling about this circuit breaker” or “why are you behaving this way”, can be loaded questions that will lead to silence or your children shutting you out. One way to help them open up, is by starting with simple questions like:

Check-In at the start of the day: What is 1 thing you want to do today? It can be anything they want to accomplish for themselves, not what you expect them to do.

Check-Out at the end of the day: what is 1 win we want to celebrate?

You may get one word answers like, “nothing” or a blank stare. Do not be disheartened. Perhaps you can model the way and share first. Or perhaps find a different tack: “What is 1 fruit that would describe how your day went?”

Help them to recognise the small wins in their day. Simple questions like these are light and easy for them to respond to. When they feel comfortable sharing the small things, it allows you to build towards sharing something deeper later on.

FAMILY JOURNALLING TIME

For some of us, we may not be comfortable with verbal communication. Another method that we could try is writing down our thoughts and feelings. You could set aside one notebook for the family to write anything that they would like to share, but may not be comfortable saying it face to face. You may also ask each member of the family to have their own notebook, where they could write about different things each day, and let each other read about it. Things like:

  • One thing that made me frustrated
  • One thing that was exciting
  • One thing that I am grateful for
  • Something I read or heard that made me smile
  • A song that was stuck in my head today

Remember that this is not a composition exercise and that you do not need to correct spelling and grammar as you read their journal entries.  

DAILY DOODLES

Sometimes, speaking or writing may not be the best medium to express themselves. They may not be able to find the right words to describe how they are feeling. Consider using doodles as a form of expression instead. Before the day begins or when the day ends, you could spend 5 minutes with them drawing a picture that describes how each of your day was like.

If they feel that they are not good at drawing, let them google images, use magazines or even newspaper cut-outs to make collages that can help describe their day.

You could also prompt them to explain what they put together with neutral questions like, “could you share with me what this is over here?” and “what is so special about it that you chose to add it into your picture?”.

TALK ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS

This could be the source for the roller coaster of emotions we all have been feeling. Our children have the access to the same information that we have. However, most of their news sources are often sensationalised versions they encounter on their social media pages. Speaking to an informed adult could help them have an accurate idea of what is really happening outside of your home.

You could begin with asking them these questions:

  • What’s the funniest piece of news you have heard about Covid-19?
  • What are your friends doing during the circuit breaker? Are they bored at home?
  • What do you like about this circuit breaker?
  • Is there anything that bothers you about this Covid-19 situation?
  • What is the first thing you want to do when this ends?

If you have no idea where to start, perhaps start from the bigger picture – what is going on around the world, how are their friends doing – and then zoom into asking them about how they feel. Be prepared to share your thoughts too. Keep it light-hearted and see where the conversation takes you. This is the first step into talking about other external events that could affect us in the future.

 COMMUNICATION IS A JOURNEY…

It is needful for us to recognise that communication with our children, whether as toddlers or teenagers, is a process of building bridges. It does not happen overnight. The key thing to remember about these suggestions is that they are ways to create opportunities to reach out to your child, especially when they are struggling to process and understand what is going on around them.

It is about finding different ways for them to respond to you and remember that no matter what situation they find themselves in, you are someone whom they can feel safe enough to confide in and grow with.

It is not easy but know that even if they do not respond in the way you expect them to, they do recognise that you are trying and are doing something different. Sometimes, it just takes them some time to process and respond back. Remember that every time you try, you are building the foundations of stronger communication between you and your child.

This COVID-19 situation will pass, but the connections that you are building today will last.

As the pre-flight safety briefing goes, look to secure your own safety, before tending to those of your family. If you are unable to do so, you jeopardise your ability to help them. The same principles apply to your mental health.

No one wakes up in the morning thinking that they are going to hurt their family. Yet, the number of domestic violence cases during this global lockdown has spiked. 

The Straits Times reports that calls to the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) helpline in February 2020, have increased by 33 percent compared to 2019. In March 2020, calls related to emotional and psychological distress, violence and abuse, was up by 35 percent; to 619 enquiries.

In times of crisis, it may feel like you are losing your sense of control or power. Having to juggle the needs and demands of family members, in spite of increasingly limited resources.

The forced constraint, the isolation, it all adds up. Managing the transition and that of your family members, can affect your personal mental health.

School, tuition, CCAs, and hobbies, innocuous and pedestrian activities that we never gave much thought to. Only when they are gone, do we realise that we needed them as much as our kids did. Providing us with moments of respite and rest.

You have now become the masterchef, housekeeper, finance manager, school teacher on top of your usual role at work.

Some of us do not have access to the help from extended family that we had previously. Some of us are anxious about the stability of our jobs in this unpredictable climate. Some of us are concerned about our ability to financially support our families.

We are also navigating new territory in our relationship with our children. We have never had to be as involved in their learning or spend as much time with them as we do now. This may also have strained our parent-child relationship or it may not have turned out the way that you had expected.

Managing these stressors poorly will impact how we respond and react to the people around us – particularly our children. When we are fighting off pressures from every front, it could lead to an extended period of frustration, anxiety and uncertainty.

If left unchecked, that one harsh word, that one outburst, that one hand raised in a moment of fury, can spiral into something more serious and harmful. It can happen to the best of us.

To help protect our mental health during this circuit breaker, here are some things that we can do:

Balance what you read 

Do not overdose on articles regarding Covid-19. Ensure that you get information from reputable sources. Spend 5 to 10 minutes a day and nothing more. Instead, try spending more time reading positive and encouraging articles. Avoid breeding unnecessary anxiety. Replace it with positive perspectives and feel-good pieces.

Hakuna Matata time 

Schedule ME-time. Exercise, paint, dance, bake, cook, do a crossword puzzle, play a game, watch a Netflix show. Do something for yourself for 30 minutes each day. It’s your “no worries” moment for the day. 

Communicate with your children 

If they do something to frustrate you, chances are they were unaware of how or why it did. When we blow our top off at them, they are often unable to separate the anger from the teaching point. Wait till you have cooled off, sit down and share with them what made you frustrated in a neutral way. Ask them how they felt about it. 

This may not necessarily have to be verbal. Perhaps have a family diary book where anyone can write honest feelings. A journal where they can write or draw what they think happened which made you frustrated. Ease the tension and then help them recognise the specific actions that caused them to affect you. 

Connect with people 

Humans are social creatures. Connect with the outside world so that you feel less trapped on an isolation island. Video call your friends and family and share your worries and concerns. Know that you are not alone in what you are going through.

Control what you can

Avoid overindulging in things that makes you lose control – Binging on Netflix, alcohol, or even social media. Too much of anything is good for nothing.

Check yourself 

Emotions are subtle. We may not even realise we are feeling them until we look at ourselves in the mirror or we see how others are reacting to us. When our emotions get the better of us, they can sometimes spillover to the people in close proximity to us, affecting them in ways we do not plan. 

Our frustration with work or our spouses can sometimes lead to a raise in our voices or a switch to a negative tone when speaking to our children. Other times, it makes us more irritable that when our children do things that are not a big deal, we react as though it is. It is important that before we react or respond to any situation, we check our emotions to ensure that we are responding rationally and our response matches the gravity of the situation.

Ask for help

The reality is, being in any type of lockdown affects us all in ways that we may not have realised. Some of us are able to handle it and move on much quicker than others. The truth is, you do not have to manage all of this on your own. 

Sometimes the bravest thing that we can do for ourselves and our family is to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength and resourcefulness. When we are able to recognise that we need support from others, we become an example to our children, that they too can reach out for help whenever they need it.

It is only when we can manage ourselves first, that we can then be the support our family needs during this time.

If you find yourself needing support for any reason, below is a helpline that you can reach out to. You are not alone in this. We at High Achievers stand with you in this time of crisis.

National Care Hotline: 62026868

Should you need any assistance be it for mental well-being, stress over finances or marital or family tensions, you may call this hotline. It links you to specialised and trained professionals who will be there to listen and support you with any of your concerns.


Zoom. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Here are some steps you can take, to make coexistence more bearable.

SECURITY

  1. Use randomised room IDs instead of your own personal IDs by scheduling meetings. They may be more troublesome, but they reduce the chance of random people entering your room. Try googling your Zoom personal ID. Yep, take the extra step.
  2. Use waiting rooms . Just like you don’t leave your front doors wide open, use waiting rooms to verify the identity of people, before letting them into your meeting room. You can also enable “Play a Chime” when new users enter your room. Kind of like those infrared sensors they use in some offices and stores.
  3. Ensure your students have their Names & Class displayed as their screen names. You can see it in the waiting room. You can also disable “allow participants to rename” in the room.
  4. Visual verification is the last layer of security. Everyone turns on their cameras and smile. Remember to smile, that’s the important part.
  5. Remove any intruders simply by clicking their profile and selecting the option. If only it was so simple to get rid of annoying relatives in your home.

CONDUCT

Talking to a screen might feel weird, like talking to yourself in front of an audience. But you’ll get used to it, soon it’ll be like talking to yourself in private. Here are some ways to keep your students’ attention on you.

  1. Set clear & measurable learning goals at the start. This primes students to look out for key points during the lesson. It is also highly encouraged to end sessions with a mini assessment, so that students having been able to answer it, would feel like their time has been fruitfully spent. It also provides feedback on whether more time needs be spent on the topic.
  2. Mute your students. Let them know that if they need to respond verbally, to temporarily unmute themselves, by  pressing and holding the space bar. Petition to Zoom to port this feature to real life.
  3. Encourage participation by asking students to use the chat (this function is disabled for MOE accounts). An alternative is to jot them down elsewhere and share them at an appointed time. This demonstrates that you are keen to hear them. No worries, the mute function is always there as a safety net.
  4. Awkward silences are common in video conferencing. Being muted, lag in the network, and the general unnaturalness of communicating so, all contribute to its occurrence. Don’t skirt the issue, address it, own it, joke about it. I usually like to say “Okay, any questions? Let’s wait for an awkward 10 seconds of silence for anyone who has questions”.
  5. Use non-verbal feedback to gauge the attention of your students. It’ll be less obvious through the camera, but it’ll still be there.
  6. Use the gallery view to keep tabs on your students. Live your Orwerllian fantasies by asking them to perform simple actions, a smile, a shake of the head, a little merry jig. It’ll be very evident if they are distracted and caught off guard. Typing and clicking movements during odd periods are also a tell-tale sign of malingering and mischief, as are random smiles and bursts of giggling. Remind the miscreants of your all-seeing powers. Oh, and you can also use it to monitor for “AHA moments”, to gauge learning.

PEDAGOGY

Teaching pedagogies have hardly changed in decades. Now that Home-Based Learning has forced everyone to adopt new technologies, we must adapt our teaching methods to facilitate this new reality. E-learning has to evolve pass the point of being a glorified fax machine, with teachers playing an important role. Creating, moderating, facilitating, a safe environment, situations, and experiences, where true learning can take place. Until a future where knowledge can be acquired à la Matrix style.

  1. Micro-learning methods maximise the limited time for face-to-face (f2f) interactions. The key is to reduce content download during f2f, instead using that time to increase learning personalisation. Ultimately allowing students to quickly apply what they have learnt. Resulting in cycles of short, frequent, learning bursts..
  2. Use mass-engagement methods such as polls to gauge students’ responses quickly. Students are more open to respond to polls done anonymously. You can use the results to facilitate discussions.
  3. It is even easier now for students to share answers with the class. The virtual whiteboard, screen sharing (MOE accounts have to make participants co-host to utilize this feature) coupled with annotation features, present opportunities for peer teaching. Hear their steps, methods, thought processes for solving the problem. Like they always say, “to teach is to learn twice” (and also to give teacher a break).
  4. Have a “Lucky Draw Box” for your student teaching “volunteers”. This will keep them on their toes, and the incidental squirming will provide mild entertainment. Set the expectation at the beginning of the session, let them know that you’ll be getting their involvement in the next lesson. This will encourage them to prepare for it, focus on the learning, and cut down excuses.
  5. Try Breakout Rooms. Assign teams or let Zoom randomise them. Give students problems to solve, ensuring that the problems and final deliverables are clear, and that they understand what is expected of them. You’ll also want to use the countdown feature, the doomsday-esque atmosphere, ensures students are kept on task. Students will be automatically vacated to the main room once the timer hits 0.

Be creative with the way you conduct your sessions. Experiment with the technologies and features available. The world is your oyster… And your students, guinea pigs.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Humans are social creatures. Early and middle teens are an important period of social development. It is during this time that teens start forming defining relationships that their identity is based upon. This period of development is observable through the stark contrast in behaviour of the lower secondary students, compared with the upper secondary ones. Where upper secondary students are more likely to heed the opinion of their peers, rather than their elders, as compared to the reverse, with lower secondary students.

During this circuit breaker, students are restricted from physical interactions with their peers. And it is during these physical interactions where social ability develops the most, where you get to experience the other person’s physical feedback and emotions. Doubtlessly, the COVID-19 situation would have a detrimental effect on the students’ social development. Here is where technology can help.

When social technologies first came about 15 years ago, they allowed for a massive expansion of an individual’s social network. They also received flak for being shallow and superficial. The current crisis has brought forth the importance of exploring new technologies, harnessing the potential good, while avoiding the pitfalls. In this article, we shall find out how new technologies can humanise digital pedagogy and deepen social networks. Building strong and resilient relationships online, and maybe even offline.

 

1. Let them develop their own voice and opinions

While many online tools allow teachers to easily release content and create a “playlist” for students’ learning, these are tools for “learning mass production” with a very one-way learning experience.

This time of home-based learning (HBL) where independence and learning alone (physically) is required, reduces the pressure on students to conform to norms and group-think. Whereas in class, they may be swayed by others for fear of being left out. Allowing opportunities to raise their thoughts in a safe environment gives students time to develop their own opinions. It could be in the form of a video upload, creative writing or debate where they need not fear of being judged.

In this manner, you promote participation, logical thinking and opinion forming. These critical thinking skills will prove useful to increase students’ level of learning and give higher order answers in open-ended essay questions.

 

2. Create opportunities for dialogue and discourse

A major argument against social media is the superficial interactions that take place. Video conferencing tools serve as a good platform, with quality facilitation, to turn it into a much deeper level of social interaction. Focus not only on the decision itself, but also on the thought process behind it.

During a live class, you can use polls on Zoom to gather initial thoughts before asking students to share about how they made that decision. You can also ask students to submit their thoughts before a class before displaying results during a live session. Also, consider breakout rooms for groups to come to a common consensus before sharing their decisions.

This is especially important for youths of this age group who are transitioning away from self-focused beliefs. As youth developers, we need to develop empathy in students and help them realise that other people matter too. The respect required to listen and acknowledge others’ point of view, even if they may disagree with it. And finally to practise “give and take”, to meet somewhere in between. This is a life skill important to develop as adults, and necessary to begin now.

Values are not taught, they are caught

This shared experience in dialogue and discourse, together with the decision making process shape the values of your students. The way you facilitate conversations and respect their opinions serve as a moral example. When you practise such values openly, students pick it up and naturally bring them to class. 

 

3. Build skills for metacognition 

In a time when learning pedagogies are being challenged, everyone is asking what it takes to truly learn: even independent self-learning. What environment, methods and processes can create a productive environment for learning.

Even as students go through this experience, they will definitely compare it against classes in school. Instead of comparing experiences and complaining, switch it to help students realise what factors in each scenario helped them to learn better. Understanding the contexts and factors in their learning help students build awareness of 

  • What they are thinking
  • How they express that thought

Help them learn about how they learn, and their limitations. Following which, find ways to overcome their limitations. Recreate these factors to maximise their learning effectiveness or complement students with each other.

Some of the factors include

Content Type Theoretical & abstract Logical, step-by-step
Exam question type Weighing & taking a stand Factual, step-by-step
Way I learn Tell me what to do
(follow the steps then understand why)
Tell me why I do it
(understand why then follow the steps)
Where I learn Large room
With background noise
Small room
Quiet
Who I learn with With friends to “pressure” me Alone
Focus best with what type of work
and at what time
Innovative, require a level of thought:
Before lunch time
Routine, step-by-step:
Afternoon

Recognising that students have different strengths in learning different subjects and how they learn, these open doors for collaborative learning in the classroom. You would probably have heard students studying together while video conferencing. They already set the foundation for promoting peer-sharing and peer-teaching. These help to build a nurturing and collaborative environment which promotes a team mentality.

These practices may seem difficult, awkward and bumpy to start. Keep at it! For when these seeds are sown, they remain strongly rooted.


References

https://www.edutopia.org/article/3-tips-humanizing-digital-pedagogy
https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4hfiles/VI950902FAgesStages.PDF
https://tips.uark.edu/using-blooms-taxonomy/
https://zoom.us/docs/doc/Tips%20and%20Tricks%20for%20Teachers%20Educating%20on%20Zoom.pdf
https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/

Teachers were surprised, and forced to be creative when home-based learning was announced. They had to adopt new and different technologies, methodologies, and pedagogies, all of which will change the way they teach forever

Now, there is an increased emphasis on learning independently and effectively. Teachers are facing tension between delivering content efficiently and trying to do so without coming across as uncaring and aloof to the students’ learning experience.

What can teachers do to build a positive learning environment amidst this period of drastic change?

The HEART strategy by Harvard Business Review (Waldron and Wetherbe, 2020), provides a framework that answers these problems. Providing teachers with a way to connect and care for their students, while delivering the content and teaching they need to.

It’s simple to exercise, and requires only a little effort. It will even help when times go back to normal.

 

Humanise your classes

This is the first time your students are spending more time at home with their family. You may want to begin by empathising with how they may be feeling, especially at their age where they place higher emphasis on social relationships than on family. You would have heard students saying phrases like “It’s so boring at home”, “I will miss you so much” to each other on the last day of school.

While deliverables are important, how students feel while going through it is just as important. The attitude they form now towards learning, shapes how they learn when they’re back in class.

Consider setting 10-15 minutes aside each week to talk about how their learning experience has been and how you can help to support them. Give some motivation through a story or a quote to know that you are with them along this journey too. 

 

Educate them on how to interact with you

Share with students about the constraints that you may face. They usually seem to complain a lot but they are not people without empathy. Sharing circumstances and constraints open avenues for students to problem solve with you. You never know what they have to offer.

You can also encourage them to take the initiative and search for resources which may teach the content better. A collaborative community can be built around learning.

 

Assure stability

Students buy into you as a person before they buy into what you teach them. Your uniqueness as a person makes you a very special teacher. As someone who’s detail-oriented and always ensuring that students fully understand the intricate steps, or as an inclusive teacher who seeks to involve even the quietest student. “Continue to provide the things they have come to know and love”. You don’t change, even if the environment is changing. These are the very reasons they love you as a teacher.

 

Revolutionise what your students value about you

Change is the only constant, and change gives rise to opportunities for innovation. Previously, we might have focused on delivering content. In this time while they’re stuck at home, what can we teach students about life skills? Give them tips on developing discipline to sit and learn effectively in the home environment they’re in. Overcome procrastination. How to focus and get onto the “zone”?They may even be seeking advice on how to interact with their family members for such long periods of time. How to enjoy silence and peace and even learning a new skill.

Show them how these life skills stay with them forever and will be useful wherever they go. Share a part of your life, you are deepening relationships with them even through a screen.

 

Tackle the future

Give certainty to your students. Let them know the long and short term goals in the pipeline and the strategies towards it. You’re priming their minds for future tasks and actions. 

Show them what plans you have to make the next month more enjoyable. Be willing to change and improve the way you teach now and even after this whole pandemic is over. These improvements now inspire confidence and let your students know that you’ve got it in control. Show that you’re responding, not reacting.

 

 

“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell.

One of the strongest factors motivating students’ learning is their personal relationship with their teacher. Students don’t wish to disappoint a teacher who puts so much effort to care for and help them. 

With these communication and interaction strategies, you can even emerge from the crisis with much stronger relationships with your students.

Build on your relationships and you can build their learning.

 

Reference

https://hbr.org/2020/04/ensure-that-your-customer-relationships-outlast-coronavirus

With the pressure to do well in school or to do well at work, it is inevitable that stress sometimes creeps up on us. While pressure may not be a bad thing, stress is very unpleasant, and can have detrimental effects on your overall well-being as well. Thus, below are some practical tips on how you can combat stress when it comes your way!

  1. Eat Well

Well-balanced meals as well as eating right amounts help to ensure that your body feels good, allowing your mind to feel good as well. However, it is important to make sure that you do not overeat as well.

2. Set SMART Goals

Set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. Planning and working smart helps you accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively, and is a useful skill to have!

3. Take Breaks

Always ensure that you give your body and your mind time to to rest! Take out some time to spend time with friend or do something that you enjoy and relaxes you. With a refreshed state of mind, you will be able to be more productive and effective in your work as well.

4. Take an intentional pause when things get too overwhelming

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time to take a proper break, and the thought of doing so might cause us to feel even more anxious, especially when it feels like time is running out. In this case, it is important to pace yourself and manage your stress levels. However, things can sometimes get a bit too crazy without us realising it, and before we know it, we’re overwhelmed. When this happens, take a deliberate pause. Take a deep breath and count to ten before taking further action. This pause actually evokes a calming effect and can help you to rationalise your situation before proceeding with what you should or can do next.

5. Understand What Causes You To Be Stressed

There can be many underlying causes behind why people get stressed. For some, it may be self imposed expectations that they feel the need to meet, while for others it may be the fear of disappointing the people around them should they fail to accomplish certain tasks. Figure out what it is that stresses you out and what you can do to work around it!

At the end of the day, there are many contributing factors that can lead to the build up of stress and it is very easy to fall prey to it. However, there are many steps that we can take to take better care of our minds and bodies so as to thrive in the world today.

Most importantly, recognise if you need more help. If issues escalate and you feel like you are struggling to handle it by yourself, please seek professional help and talk to certified psychologists or counsellors.

Attitudes are a powerful determinant of whether you are a successful person or not.

What attitude you carry is demonstrated in your behaviour. If you choose to believe that you are capable of achieving your goals and reaching your dreams, naturally your actions would reflect that. Conversely, if you hold on to the belief that you are not good enough or that you are not worthy, you may find yourself giving up more easily and being unconvinced that there is a point in continuing to try.

Your attitude also determines your outcome. You may not be able to change you circumstances, but you are able to change your attitude on the situation. Are you going to continue moping because something bad happened, or are you going to adopt a positive attitude and choose happiness instead of prolonged grief?

An undergraduate psychology textbook defines attitude as:

“Positive or negative evaluations or beliefs held about something that in turn may affect one’s behaviour; attitudes are typically broken down into cognitive, affective and behaviour components.“

Cognitive attitudes have to do with understanding and knowledge of a certain thing or situation, affective refers to attitudes that stem your emotions and feelings while behaviour points to how you would naturally react when you come across a specific situation.

Thus, our attitudes can vary widely and can be influenced by many factors.

However, we are not passive agents in this, and have a say in what attitudes we choose to adopt in our lives.

So how do we improve our attitudes?

1. Affirm yourself

Do this multiple times a day, every day. Look at yourself in front of the mirror and tell yourself the positive attributes that you have. This serves to fuel your subconscious with positive thinking, which will in turn trigger positive feelings that will influence your actions.

2. Know what motivates you

What are some of the things that will make you take action and make change? Know them, and use them to your advantage.

3. Visualise what you want to achieve

Envisioning yourself at the place you want to be motivates you and helps to improve your attitude as you continue pressing on to reach your end goal.

4. Be intentional with your actions

Always act with a purpose and be conscious of what that purpose is. Does it value add to you and help you reach or goals? Or is it aimless and a waste of time.

5. Understand that you do not always have to be right

Life becomes a lot easier when you come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to give in sometimes. Sometimes there is no point in arguing, especially if the other party cares more about who is right rather than what is right.

6.Exercise

Besides the health benefits of exercise, it releases endorphins that help you to feel good, moving you towards a more positive and motivated frame of mind. Exercise also causes you to feel better physically. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you don’t feel your best physically.

Why not start applying these tips to your life? You don’t have to be worried about mastering all of these immediately, start small and start seeing the change in the way you face life.

References

Parkany, E., Gallagher, R., & Viveiros, P. (2004). Are attitudes important in travel choice?. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, (1894), 127-139.

Photo by Akil Mazumder from Pexels

Having the right mindset is extremely important for success as it shapes the way that you approach and live your life.

Be it in your personal or professional spheres, the type of mindset that you have will play a part in how your life pans out.

Types of Mindsets

Generally, there are two types of mindsets that prevail, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The difference between the two is that a growth mindset sees a challenge and thinks “Wow! An opportunity to try and learn something new!” whereas a fixed mindset on the other hand thinks “I’ve tried and failed before, nothing is going to change…”

Whichever one of these two mindsets that we carry then influences our behaviour and how we interact with and perceive the successes and failures in our lives.

Obviously the ideal is to have a growth mindset, which is essentially believing that you have the capacity to grow.

Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found that the growth mindset “creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”

An individual with a growth mindset is not afraid to take on challenges, and sees failure as a window to grow and expand on their existing abilities, rather than as a signifier of their incompetency.

With a fixed mindset, people are likely to be afraid to fail, as they would see it as exposing their weaknesses and inadequacies. In turn, this can lead to them being afraid to try new out new things as well, as they remain stagnant in those areas.

Research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found that the growth mindset “creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.”

This affects the level of satisfaction and happiness that you would feel as well.

Challenges are inevitable, and will surface in all areas of our life, be it school, work, or even in our personal lives. So how then would you want to approach them? Do you want to work towards growing and making it better for yourself, or are you just going to settle for how things are.

Ultimately, those with a growth mindset are likely to reach higher levels of achievement while those with a fixed mindset may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

Growth Mindset in Practice

So how then do you develop a growth mindset?

1. Embrace failures and imperfections
Instead of being ashamed of them, allow yourself to acknowledge and accept them. Learn from your mistakes and try again

2. Try a different method
What worked in the past may not always work again. What worked for someone else may not work for you. Don’t be afraid to switch things up and try another method.

3. Alter your perspective
Indeed challenges can be tough, however, it is important to see them as opportunities for self-improvement. Yes, it can be tough trying to overcome a certain thing, but when it’s done, you’ll come out of it stronger and having learnt something new.

4. Value the journey over the end product
Enjoy the learning process and actually learn! Don’t just focus on trying to get to the end, but be present throughout the journey.

5. Emphasise learning well over learning fast
Sometimes we just want to get things over and done with. However, we are robbing ourselves of the knowledge that could have been gained in the process. Learn well, and sometimes that means allowing yourself to make mistakes as well.

Implement these practices into your life and take ownership of your mindset.

Whenever we think about who we are and what defines us, we generally drift towards ideas about personalities and the combination of different characteristics and qualities that form ours.

 

Personality types have actually been quite a hot topic as of late, with many people taking personality tests to try and figure out which personality category they fall under.

 

One test commonly used is the DISC behavior assessment tool, used to analyse why different people behave differently.

 

It is based on the DISC theory by psychologist William Moulton Marston. The assessment tool centres on four main personality traits: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C).

 

With DISC, we are able to better predict our behavior in terms of how we live our lives and how we deal with others. Understanding what motivates you, what causes you stress and how you solve problems, will come in very useful especially as you work with people in the future and can help to improve your working relations.

 

For example, you might realize through DISC that you are a more task-oriented person, thus you might find it difficult to work with people who are more people-oriented and will need to make adjustments in order to improve working relations. With a better understanding of ourselves, we will also be better able to tap on our strengths and work on our weaknesses.

 

Definitely who we are cannot be wholly encapsulated by one personality type. We are all made up of a blend of personality types, where we range higher on some scales and lower on others. We look at our more dominant ones to understand ourselves better and the blends typically come in the form of D/I, S/C, I/S or D/C.

 

Take a look at the table below for a breakdown of the the different DISC personality types!

Personality type Behaviour Strengths Weaknesses What they want from their role How to improve
High D –  Dominance Determined

 

Opinionated

Direct

 

Egocentric

 

Decisive

 

Demanding

 

 

Problem solver

 

Visionary

 

Independent

 

Self-sufficient

 

Thrives in crises

 

Strong willed

Tendency to be overbearing

 

Rash in making decisions

 

Impatient with poor performance

 

Not very encouraging

Power and authority

 

Prestige

 

Challenge

Be strong willed is good because you won’t give up even when things get tough. However, it is important to know where the boundaries are and when you need to submit to authority. You may not always be right.
High I –

Influence

Can be emotional

 

Persuasive

 

Talks more than listens

 

Animated

 

Outgoing

 

Enthusiastic

Friendly

 

Interest in people

 

Convincing

 

Charismatic

 

Life of the party

More concerned with popularity than tangible results

 

Poor with detail

 

Short attention Span

 

Disorganised

 

More talk than action

 

Makes decisions based on emotions

Visible recognition

 

Approval

 

Popularity

Important to recognize that you thrive when attention is given to you and your ideas are heard, and to bank on that. You work well under pressure and are able to use your influence for good and the betterment of the situation. However it is also important to know that when people are not receptive of your ideas, it doesn’t have to do with who you are as a person. Rejection of your ideas do not equate to rejection of you as a person.
High S –

Steadiness

Stable and steady

 

Consultative

 

Patient

 

Dislike change

 

Reserved

 

Sympathetic

Good listener

 

Compassionate

 

Understanding

 

Patient

 

Predictable

Resists change

 

Holds grudges

 

Spectator

 

Too laid back

 

Indecisive

 

Not goal-oriented

 

Difficulty in establishing priorities

Standardization

 

Security

 

Calm environments

 

Status quo

Do not fear change and conflict. Change and conflict can be scary, but may be necessary.

 

Don’t be afraid to fight for what you want (as long as it isn’t illegal or won’t lead to a physical fight).

 

Change can also be good sometimes. After all, growth occurs outside of your comfort zone.

High C -Conscientiousness Adhere strongly to rules

 

Structured

 

Logical

 

Careful

 

Cautious

 

Diplomatic

 

Proper

 

Hardworking

Competent

 

Analytical

 

Precise

 

Self-disciplined

 

Loyal

Meticulous to a fault

 

Rigid

 

Critical

 

Legalistic

 

Not expressive

 

Unforgiving

Clear expectations

 

Autonomy

 

Recognition of expertise

 

Professionalism

Don’t be afraid of criticism, and instead, embrace it and grow. There isn’t a need to take everything so seriously, sometimes it’s okay to just relax.

 

Learning is something that happens everyday of our lives. Most of us associate learning with formal education like English, Math, Science, and whatever other subjects that we are made to take in school. However, learning can take place through experiences as well, especially so for things like life skills, which may not be as effectively learnt by going through a lecture.

Life skills that we learn in our everyday lives can include things like learning how to become a better communicator, learning to become a better leader, learning how to better manage expectations etc. In a school context, these skills are developed as we interact with our teachers and peers, and as we are forced to put them into practice when we engage in things like group projects, or take on leadership positions.

Life skills are essential not only in a professional context, but can be applied in every area of our lives as well. Besides being useful for things like impressing potential employers at interviews, life skills are useful as well for situations like if you get into a disagreement with your friend and need to sort the matters out.

According to educational theorist David Kolb, “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” Learning through experiences actively involves the learner in a tangible experience that allows them to make meaning of whatever they go through, and therefore learn more effectively.

Following Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model, there are four key processes that we go through as we learn through experiences.

  1. Concrete Experience (Doing it)
  2. Reflective Observation
    • Learning is best facilitated by a process that draws out the individuals beliefs and ideas about a topic so that they can be examined, tested and integrated with new, more refined ideas
  3. Abstract Conceptualisation
    • analyse, make sense of what happened, moving back and forth between different ideas, actions, feelings and thinking, adapting
    •  assimilating the new experiences into existing concepts and accommodating existing concepts to new experiences
  4. Active Experimentation (Application)
    • must be capable of using the new ideas gained from the experience which helps you gain better understanding of the new knowledge and therefore retain the information better

Many a times we attend workshops and take down notes, believing that we have committed the new knowledge learnt to memory. It is quite likely that we probably will not remember the information in the long run, and that we will not go back and refer to the notes we have taken down either. However, if we learn through experience, the way the memory of what was learnt through that experience will be stored in our minds differently.

Imagine trying to understand the concept of resilience by reading about it, in comparison to having to physically experience a challenge and having to push yourself to get past it.

Which is more likely to help you learn better? Learning how to be a better speaker by taking down pointers from a powerpoint slide or spending time with someone who speaks to large crowds regularly?

The range of emotions and feelings that we go through as we learn from the experience is crucial, improving the likelihood of experiential learning occurring as we make meaning of our experiences.

However, it is important to note that individuals will have to go through all four key processes in order for the experiential learning to be effective, as Kolb “views learning as an integrated process with each stage being mutually supportive of and feeding into the next,” with the stages not being effective on their own.