Things That Make You Happy

It is finally the end of Term 2, and the end of a long Semester 1. With everything that has happened, I am glad to finally have a break. Working for 23 weeks, without a proper rest, has had me drained and emotionally, physically, mentally and in some ways spiritually tired.

This level of exhaustion made me realize that things need to change and I need to be more proactive in managing my emotions and energy.

Halfway through Term 2, at my lowest, I made a list of hobbies and activities I wanted to do but held myself back from. Things that made me happy but I pushed aside because of reluctance.

I had a look at the excuses, and realized that the only one holding me back was myself. The only one who held the keys to my happiness was myself.

Upon that realization, I gave myself permission and I made a promise to myself – to do more that makes me happy.

Starting with these holidays, there are three areas I am going to focus on:

  1. Fix my DSLR camera and discover what type of photography I like and take more photos.
  2. Be more physically active.
  3. Do more hikes/walks around Perth as well as being in nature more.

Here’s to the things that make you happy. I’ll keep you updated on how my three focus areas are going.

Dear … exam stress

Dear Sophia,⁠

Five years ago, you posted this image to social media, trying to send some positive hopeful energy out, because frankly, you were somewhat of a mess. Exam pressure did that to you. Two and a half hours later, you walked out and the heavy burden was lifted because, as you put it, “it went better than I thought”. ⁠

Repeat after me: I will pass this finance exam. I will pass this exam. I will pass this exam.

This week social media reminded you of this snapshot of a moment captured in the black-and-white photo you chose to accompany the post and it got me thinking of my students and exams they may have to do next term. What would I say to them about the pressures of exams?⁠

When I was 16, 17, what advice would have I wanted to have heard before going into exams? Those were the questions I asked myself as I sat down this morning with my cup of coffee. Reflecting on this, these are the advice I would give my younger self, but also to my students next term.

  1. Exam pressure can be scary, but remember this: we can’t do more than the best shot and effort we put into preparing for this exam. Don’t strive for perfection.
  2. Don’t let exams take over your life. You need balance; prioritize your study but make sure you carve out time to socialize as well as spend time having fun with your interests and hobbies.
  3. Clarity comes when the mind is still, not when it is busy. So take time to switch off, relax and calm the thousands of thoughts that must be racing through your mind.
  4. Spend at least 30 minutes of your day moving. Whether that be through walking, running, yoga, dancing or working out.
  5. Remember that everyone learns differently, so how you study will be different to others. Find the study regime that works for you, and create a structure.

Exam time is a stressful time and this is one of the reasons why resilience is so crucial for a balanced mental health during this time. Though whilst this letter is addressed to myself, I hope that it is helpful for anyone who needs reassurance as they enter exam times.

Breathe.

Couple of reflections in this time of uncertainty, where we have seen humanity shine in times of adversity (spontaneous balcony concerts in Spain and Italy) but also the ugliness of humanity come to light (um, hello panic buying of toilet paper).

It is a juggle and a half to keep teaching the curriculum and emotionally manage classes of students who are unsettled, because the world is unsettled.

Managing my own emotions, whilst trying to be calm and positive for students, has led to exhaustion. My emotional and mental wellbeing wobbled for a bit, but it has stabilized and is now steady … just.

What has really helped me these past two weeks has been taking a break on social media platforms, filtering what type of information I intake, making time for myself and yoga. I’ve managed to binge watch several seasons of Heartland, get up-to-date with Doc Marten and had several individual dance parties in the kitchen. Plus, afternoon naps with the kittens curled up next to me didn’t hurt.

Pause, catch your breath and recharge.

This has helped me get a balance, and be able to attack the large pile of marking that I’ve bookmarked for this weekend. It has also helped me assess a few things.

In this season of uncertainty, let us share more of the loving-kindness that we are capable of. Don’t let fear isolate us unnecessarily. Because I am an educator, my natural inclination is to share resources to help others. So, below are some tips for those who are feeling overwhelmed:

  • Do one action each day that generates happiness for you and for others. If you are stuck for ideas, look at Action for Happiness’ “Coping Calendar“. There are 30 actions you can implement to help you cope in times of uncertainty.
  • Switch off social media for a short period of time. We can all be easily overwhelmed with the thousands upon thousands of posts about Covid-19, so it’s okay to take a break and detox for a bit.
  • Listen to music that helps calm you. I’ve been playing Spotify’s “Musical Therapy” playlist a lot recently. Even though I get a few grumbles, I have noticed how it calms them and helps them focus.
  • Rest up. This is often easier said than done, but try and get 8 hours of sleep, hydrate and make sure you are eating regularly.

Let me know what you do to help you stay calm in moments of uncertainty.

Limbo

For months, I have been thinking about Liebe + Letters. Blog posts have been forming in mind, only to evaporate when I try to put words onto paper.

It’s been hard to write, or more accurately, finish blog posts ready to publish. There are some many unfinished drafts that I don’t even know if they will ever see the light of day.

I’ve thought about the type of posts I write and whether or not I should change the format. Whether I should write less about reflections about life lessons and more about the minutiae of my life.

A lot has happened since my last update. Finished at my old school, relocated back to Perth and moved houses, started at a new school, became mama to two little kittens and (re)learning how to manage full-time teaching.

It’s left this blog to be in limbo, and frankly, I hate being in limbo. I like certainty, structure and routines. Knowing where I am going, and what my plan for the day is. So not having a plan and being in limbo when it comes to my writing is … daunting. In many ways, it’s uncomfortable for me.

I know they say that being out of your comfort zone is where most of the learning and growth occurs. Yet in this murky zone of uncertainty, it is hard to be reassured by that saying.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to keep writing and get all of these ideas that are floating in my brain and out into the world to see where they go. I just want to know where some guiding markers are for this project.

There isn’t a concrete ending to this post – I have no idea where to go from here and maybe that is it. Maybe the whole key learning points in this is the organic nature of writing.

All I know is that you put one foot in front of the other, just focus on the here and now and see where that journey leads you.

Dear … anxiety

Anxiety takes form in different ways. Whether it’s your perfectionism influencing your need to be in control of everything in your immediate vicinity (whilst internally you’re panicking), painful spikes of disassociation as you’re frozen but your brain is racing, or not knowing your flight response was triggered until you’re in a safe environment emotionally breaking down.

It’s being tense and shallow breathing and the rapid calculations of the quickest way out. It’s the constant twirling of the rings on the hand. The jittering of the leg.

Quite often, this anxiety struggle is below the tip of the iceberg that is our public persona. If you know the tells, you’ll probably see the anxiety peek through, but otherwise for the most time, it’s hidden. Because making it obvious to others attract attention and when you’re anxious, that’s the last thing you want.

That’s why it’s not as simple as “you shouldnt worry so much” or “oh, just come out – it isnt that hard”.

So be gentle and kind with others, for everyone is fighting a battle you may not know of.

Yours,

Sophia

xx

Dear today

Today is a travel day. Today is the day of saying goodbye to one world and then saying hello to another.

Today is the start of feeling that slight bit of nostalgia in my heart as I leave one homeland, to arrive in another.

It is having to accept that your time is over, that it’s time to say your goodbyes, time to say until next time, it was fun spending time with you.

Today I’m heading home, but with a suitcase filled more than just clothes, books, and presents.

Today I’m heading home, heart full of memories. Memories of my mum’s laughter as we’re having a snowball fight, of gingerbread men and mulled wine, of the cold seeping through into my bones. Memories of the smell of oranges, cinnamon, and cloves, memories of the taste of homemade potato dumplings.

Memories of the smell of my grandmother’s cooking, of dinners shared with friends, both old and new.

Today I’m heading home with a heart full of love.

Yours,
Sophia x

Dear World

Dear world,

I’ll be honest – I’m struggling to write letters the past month or so. My best writing is when my heart is there, but lately, my writing has been for work.

But that’s not the main reason. I’m struggling because I doubt myself. I doubt my relevance, I doubt my ability to be meaningful.

Doubts that have filtered through to, well, my internal sharing filter. I hold back because I seem to have no concrete point so I ramble. Because of my tendency to ramble, I hold back in conversations.

Doubts that have me questioning my ‘right’ to share my struggles with others, because  I should be the strong person, and strong people don’t share their struggles.

Doubts that have me questioning my ‘right’ to contribute to the creative field. Despite being a creative person.

Doubts that let my inner nagging voice constantly ask me “What right do you have to contribute to this decision? You know nothing” or “Why didn’t you get this right? You should have gotten that right on the first try!”

So I did something, admittedly a while ago, that I’ve been holding back on – I started a Facebook page for this project. (It’s a bit empty, it needs a whole lot of love.) And honestly, I never fully understood the bigger reason why I felt I needed to be publishing letters on a public blog, or starting a (public) Facebook page.

Until yesterday. When I was sitting in front of the window staring out into the backyard, with my playlist of Passenger and Ed Sheeran playing in the background. When I realised that the whole “Liebe + Letters” project started from a love of writing letters, but it ended up in a journey of rediscovering myself. A journey of not letting that doubting, nagging little voice win.

Yours,
Sophia x