First day of summer and optimism
The first day of Summer can bring a sense of optimism for many.
In fact, these feelings of new beginnings that the start of summer brings has been written about by countless authors and poets over the centuries. It’s something about the warm sun and lightness after months of rain, clouds and storms that lifts our spirits. And let’s face it, we’ve all experienced some ‘greyer’ moments in recent years from Australia’s Covid restrictions, border closures and uncertainty over travelling, bushfires, to past cancelled RACGP exams. Plus ‘life’ continues to happen in spite of outside events and so you may have faced your own personal loss or professional difficulties that may have made the last 6 months harder than most.
So, what to do with that small sense of optimism? Here are a few ideas for taking advantage of those feelings and bring more optimism and lightness into your life with the start of summer…
It’s easy to get caught in a negative frame of mind – we’re wired for it. So try to reframe events into a more positive light – especially if you have kids at home. If you’re stuck at home for some reason, reframe this as the perfect opportunity for you to be able to catch up on Netflix or a series you wanted to watch. Have that bath with scents and candles that you never get to have. Whatever is happening in your life at the moment, reframe today as the perfect time to do whatever you want to do, whether it’s reading a long article, tackling the pantry or the hall cupboard you’ve been meaning to get to, or listening to a recommended podcast. Reframe today as a perfect opportunity rather than another ‘grey’ day to get through.
In difficult circumstances, we’re more likely to think about the future repercussions. During Covid, I heard journalists ask about schoolies, cancelling Christmas or holidays interstate, and missing out on seeing family and friends. You may have concerns about exam performance and failing your exams. These things may or may not happen. But focusing on them is definitely going to increase our anxiety or negativity. So, focus on the present. Today – this minute – what are you going to do now? You can worry about your exam preparation, or you can start reading that textbook you bought. Narrowing our focus to today, and only planning for the immediate future, like the next day or week, is one way to take control, take our power back and reduce stress and anxiety associated with uncertainty or loss. Paraphrasing someone famous, the past can’t be changed, and the future hasn’t happened yet, so focus on today.
Find new ways to reach out and make contact with others whether it is work colleagues, family or friends – next door, interstate or overseas. Remember, though we may need to physically distance from others, we don’t need to socially distance ourselves! Connection is one of our most basic human needs. Tired of Zoom? What other ways haven’t you tried for a while? Phone? WhatsApp? Facetime?
Plan what to do and gain a sense of control. A simple plan for today or next week assists to keep you focused and make better choices while enabling you to see what you can achieve in a small timeframe, rather than being overwhelmed by a larger one. This is especially true when it comes to exam preparation. Plan what you want to achieve this week through learning goals and then break these down into small achievable daily tasks.
Try something new. Even if you don’t feel like it or you think this isn’t the right time. It may be a physical, mental, emotional, social or learning activity. Make it fun. Involve others you live with or those who live elsewhere. Need ideas? Find a new podcast – here’s one I just discovered called Resilience Agenda
Watch exam-related videos instead of reading texts or find a study partner who learns in a different way to how you do, to mix things up. Compete online with colleagues interstate – maybe develop an online game-show-like quiz to answer exam-related questions to challenge each other while keeping it fun. Learning or trying something new will make you happier and give you a sense of accomplishment, as well as connect you with others. Above all – have a laugh – make learning fun every day.
The glass half full. I sometimes hear people say ‘it’s just a half a glass of water!’ True! but it is amazing how a difference in perspective can make you feel differently, as such thinking it’s half full rather than half empty. And the good news is that optimism can be learnt. You may be thinking, it’s hard to be optimistic about failing an important exam. Optimism isn’t about pretending metaphorically that the house isn’t burning down if it is. Optimism is being able to see the potential, or a way forward, in every situation. The perspective that there’s more to be done and that the ‘journey’ isn’t over yet. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard or unwanted. It’s about having the perspective, together with the resilience, to say to yourself ‘Ok, that didn’t work. What can I try instead? What should I do differently?’
So today is the first day of summer… what are you going to do?