2018: A year in review

My mental health

2018 is the year where I consider my mental health as one of my top priorities. Prior to 2018, I was not aware about any mental health issues. But after knowing about one of my relatives having depression (he has since survived from it) as well as being exposed to mental health issues by mental health advocates on the social media accounts that I follow (specifically regarding the suicide of famous celebrities – Chester Bennington from Linkin Park & Jonghyun from Shinee), I decided to take the initiative to take my mental health seriously before I fall victim into the illness myself. The type of mental illness that I’m talking about here is ‘stress’. Well, stress in itself isn’t an illness but there are connections between stress and mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic disorder), and psychosis. Before there is depression, stress will come first. To put it simply, stress results from not being able to accept the present as it is as well as not being mindful of your surroundings and physical sensations. Two books titled ‘The Mindful Way to Depression’ & ‘The Upside of Stress’ have been few of the books that have helped me cope with stress. How do I apply this in my work as a teacher? As the majority of Malaysian teachers who are working in government schools would have experienced by now, our main challenges at work are the administrative tasks and of course, dealing with students’ behavior. As for administrative tasks as well as other tasks relating to teaching, it is to be mindful of the work by bringing your mind (psychological time) into physical time (present moment). Most of the stress comes from imagining or wishing (in our mind, as psychological time) our work to have already been completed when in physical time (present moment), it hasn’t even started or been touched yet. I can confirm to you that this approach worked for me. The most stressful time of the year would be the school’s annual sports event. Usually, teachers who have certain duties will make them feel stressed out. But by applying this approach for my mental health, there seems to be less stress or no stress at all. As for dealing with misbehaving or deviant students, I have written an entry here on my approach to mentally dealing with these types of students. In conclusion, my mental health this year has been well taken care of. I believe there will be other challenges that I will face in the years to come that would require me to take an effective approach to deal with my own mental health. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. We don’t have to have a mental illness only to apply approaches that will bring us into a healthy mental state. Better start before it’s too late.
Reading routine

In this 2017 blog entry, I mentioned that the total amount of books that I read was 41. This year, unexpectedly, I read a total of 69 books (currently still reading the 69th one)! My reading routine and habit have changed this year from last year. This year I started taking down notes, analysis, reflections, and/or summary for every book that I read without fail! I do this for both fiction and non-fiction books (either in digital or physical form). I think writing about a book that I have read will make me remember more what I read. How did I manage to have more time for reading? Firstly, I wake up at 4 a.m. everyday on weekdays. After waking the Muslim students up for their subuh prayer, which is one of my duties as the hostel warden, I will usually have about 45 minutes left before getting ready for work. Within that 45 minutes, I take the time to just read. Yes, early in the morning. I also do this during weekends but the only difference is that I wake up at 4.30 a.m. instead. Secondly, throughout this year, I rarely take afternoon naps. I maximize my afternoon time to read. The price for adopting this habit is that I began to go to bed as early as 8.30 p.m. or 9 p.m. But then again it’s okay because I’ll have ample time of beauty sleep before waking up at 4 a.m.-ish the next day. I guess this is how I manage to have an increased number of books read as compared to last year.
As for the types of books I read, this year I focused more on professional development and mental health, with academic books and novels seeping in somewhere in between.
Here are my top favourite books that I read this year:
1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
2. The Mindful Way Through Depression by Mark Williams
3. The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal
4. Teaching Love and Logic by Jim Fay & David Funk
5. Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg
6. Thanks For the Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen
7. Principle-Centred Leadership by Stephen R. Covey
8. Ego is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Here is my mantra for my mental health practice – 
Despite outer chaos, seek inner peace.

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