I am Archisha Bhar from India. I am writing this post because this topic has been bothering me for quite some time now, and would feel better if I share it here.
I am an engineering student from the same country as our instructor, @Raj. Due to this pandemic, since last year, our education sector has received a major impact. We are attending online classes for over a year. But it was going OK till a couple of months back when things started going bad. Our semester duration got squeezed to 3 months instead of 6 months to make up for the time lost at the beginning of the pandemic. Our class routine got tighter and tighter to the point that I cannot even watch a video of this wonderful course in a week! Previously, when I first joined Coursera, I would finish so many courses in one week itself. This makes me feel so bad, that even though I am getting to attend these Zoom classes, I can hardly dedicate any time to the course. Not only our routine, but also regular tests and assignments, viva and so many things are given regularly by our college. We don’t get the time to breathe, literally.
I lost my father in late March, and my college added to that stress. I continued my classes regularly, hoping to keep myself motivated and engaged. However, I understood that I was in dire need of a break. I still am. But our college keeps getting stricter and stricter, and doesn’t really give us time to relax. We didn’t even get a summer vacation. I get good grades in college, but now, I am losing interest in my studies, because I would get a headache almost all the time (even now). The thoughts of my pending tasks are always ticking at the back of my mind. I am starting to fear my college. I even have lab viva and checking tomorrow, but still, I am going to attend today’s Zoom class no matter what!
Also, due to lockdown, I am always shut in my house, only with my mother. This is creating a lot of stress on me. I even fell sick a couple of days.
So my point is that, our education system, especially at a time like this, really needs to understand the importance of happiness of students. If they keep pressuring the students like this, it would seriously affect their mental health, happiness, and as a result, their performance.
Also, being from the same country as Raj, if he could introduce the subject of Happiness in his institution, why can’t the other institutions do it as well?
Thank you for hearing me out. It would be so nice if Raj could read this post and reply, because I am shy of speaking in front of a large audience (in Zoom). Also, if any of you has any thoughts regarding this, especially if you are a student from India like me, please drop your replies. I would really appreciate it. I really need help with this matter to get out of this stress and be happy.
@Archisha , sorry to hear about your loss.
To begin with, I am not a student, and my son, already has finished his studies, so I am not even a mother of a student. However, I feel that the education system is in need for major revamp. A wishful thinking though.
After reading thru your post, I thought again about what this course has taught me, you will learn about it later on. That learning is, all we have is, control over our inner environment. I understand, life is not easy during pandemic, but let me assure you, life has never been easy even without pandemic. We all have/ had our share of difficult times to live thru. So, what you can do, if things are not changing in your external environment? My suggestion would be to take it as a challenge and give it your best. Shift your attention to what you can do, do not think about what you can not do, because of this and that.
I can understand that your life must have been a lot different from your present situation, but embracing uncertainty is important.
What if, after a major revamp, education system still is not conducive to your happiness? If you are an engineering student, you are still in a better position compared to a medical student. I can share it from my experience as a doctor, the pressure of study is many fold.
As @Raj had suggested, if you attended 1st Zoom meeting, start writing 3 good things each day, religiously. This will help you practice gratitude (this week’s theme).
Make your way from what is. Wish you best.
Archisa…sounds like many things are impacting you. right now it sounds like you feel trapped and under a lot of stress as well as dealing with your loss. Sometimes I have noticed the ‘cascade effect’, that is my term, not a recognised one. When I am feeling stressed or low my mind seeks out all the potential and real issues in my life, it is trying to help to find the cause of my low mood. However it can have the opposite effect, instead of finding just one issue to accept or deal with it finds many more…the result can be overwhelming as it seems that so many things are a problem. But there is hope, things change, pass with or without your intervention. At least you are aware of your thoughts. I hope this helps, we can be so hard on ourselves.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply, @Nam. Looking at it from your point of view really gives me positivity!
life has never been easy even without pandemic
This line is so well said. I agree with you
Thank you so much, @KevinPT. After all, they say, everything is impermanent. And that is such a relief!
Hang on, life will improve. It helps to talk to people too…even strangers like me!
Thanks, @manoel, for putting the question to Raj. I was unsure how to put my lengthy question in front of Raj, but the way you said it, I think I now know how I will say it in the next session. Thanks for your support!
@Archisha This is a problem at the moment in Thailand too. I tutor university and school students, and they have similar problems that you do concerning the pressure and stress their unis and schools are putting them under. The institutions keep trying to justify it by saying they need to do extra homework and more tests ‘to catch up’. But when all of this is online, it is exhausting. One of the high school students I teach recently quit school and is home schooling (with my help) instead. It’s like a massive cloud has lift from her and she’s rediscovered her love of learning. With others, it’s difficult to know what to tell them. All I seem to be able to do to help is make them laugh a bit in our lessons, let them unburden themselves onto me, and try to help them understand the situation better.
I’m a single father with full responsibility for 3 teenage daughters. They have really enjoyed learning online when schools have been closed here (which has been most of this year so far). Maybe they are lucky because the Canadian International school they attend has a good system in place and the teachers have tried to keep pressure to a minimum. But if they do feel the pressure mounting, I encourage them to take a day or two off, and will email their teachers to explain why. It’s very different from Thai schools and the situation you are in though, but it does show online learning doesn’t have to be highly stressful.
The hope obviously is that vaccines will improve the situation and covid will mutate into a more benign form, so we can build our new normal. Always hope and understand that there are people out there (and here) who can help relieve the stress and pressure.
Thank you, @Hamish.
You reminded me of my father.
And it’s so good to know your daughters are enjoying online learning. This indeed shows that the same things can be done in a lighter way as well. If only there was more awareness about these things here, maybe our institutions wouldn’t be so strict. Actually, not all institutions are doing this, but some are. As you said, yes, I have started taking a few classes off and that really helps. And the fun part is that, if time is so less, they wouldn’t be able to “catch up” anyway. From a student’s point of view, extending the academic session might have actually helped. But we are always in a rush.
Seeing Raj inspires me. Being from the Business background, he has done so much research on the topic of Happiness. It gives me hope that something like this can be done in India. I want to be like him, and hope that I will be able to work on something like that in future, if not now. If we have people like him, we have hope.
Thank you so much again for your reply. Getting a teacher’s point of view, I really appreciate how you care for your students. Maybe the rush/time (“medium”) is making the teachers forget the actual “goal”, that is learning.
Sending good wishes to you and your daughters.
I’ve been quiet on this forum thus far, but felt I had to respond to what you’re sharing. I wasn’t able to attend the second session because I had another meeting at that time, but I am glad we have the option to review it via video thanks to Manoel’s stellar coordination and help. Therefore I hope what I’m sharing isn’t a repeat of what you’ve already heard (if it is, I suppose that will just end up being reinforcing). I’m so sorry for all that you’re enduring Archisa - these are unusual times and what you’re going through is a very unusual set of circumstances. Just want to acknowledge that first and foremost. Even though you’re going through it with other students in your batch and many others across India (perhaps others in other parts of the world too), it’s not easy and it’s important for students enduring such challenges to speak up and acknowledge both their pain and truth. I think a big part of happiness lies in acknowledging our reality and feeling our feelings fully, not suppressing them in any way. Thank you for modelling that for all of us, for being brave and sharing - I’m sure it’s helped so many people going through similar circumstances just to read what you’ve given voice to. It strikes me that you’re asking for a call for basic empathy and humaneness in our education system. Happiness can only emerge once those elements are in place. Obviously if six months are condensed to three, professors need to consider reducing the homework load to account for the extra time needed to review the material itself and it doesn’t sound like that’s happening at your college unfortunately. Have the students tried approaching the principal collectively? I know that’s not easy to do in India, but would it be worth trying to have a conversation with the principal and offering feedback? Would it help to set up a google form and elicit feedback from students and then present that to professors so that they have a better idea of what it’s like from the student’s perspective? These are just random thoughts and you know what’s best for you.
My heart broke to read about the loss of your father - it is incredibly difficult to lose a parent especially at a time like this. I’m very sorry for what you went through and what you’re feeling now. Grief takes its own time and is a very complex emotion. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to layer on all of these additional academic pressures on top of that. You are brave to stick with it all and are managing much more than I could if I were in your position! (probably much more than a lot of people - trust me!) Since you haven’t had time to sit with the grief and voice it, that may explain the headaches and the loss of interest in studies too in part. When we lose a parent, our perspective of the world changes and things that were previously important could seem pointless, even something like studies. That’s normal and you’re not alone in feeling that. Also, I can absolutely understand not feeling motivated when we’re not set up to succeed because of additional pressure. Through what you shared, that seed of determination to attend the ALOHF class is significant - it shows not only that you naturally gravitate toward self-care as we all do (the body has this amazing capacity to heal - both physically and emotionally - what you shared underscores that), but also that you’re determined to carve out time for that. How wonderful that you shared with Professor Raj the depth of the impact this class has on your well-being - can’t speak for him, but I’m sure that was very rewarding for him to read.
I would say build on that impulse in small ways. We don’t need to wait around for joy and love - we can create it daily for ourselves in small ways. It’s especially important and sustaining to offer this gift to ourselves during times like these. Barbara Fredrickson talks about micro moments of connection and how they can bring us joy. Since lockdown is still on, connecting with people on this forum, taking a few minutes to connect with nature outside, caring for yourself by slowing down for five minutes and sipping tea or building in any short ritual into your day that makes you happy like skating around the house in socks and singing ( maybe I speak from personal experience there hahaha) can make a massive difference. Also know that if you feel like keeping one, a gratitude journal can take many forms from water colored pictures of nature outside to snapshots on your phone (so that you don’t associate the gratitude journal mentally with just one more “assignment” as you have so many already). It is tough not to be able to connect with people, not to receive that buffer of support we normally would when losing a parent or going through unusual challenges such as these. Your mother is undoubtedly also holding grief and that can get heavy. Are there family members who could take turns calling her to check on her? Is that something you could suggest to family friends or extended family? That may help her. Is taking a walk somewhere safe downstairs an option for both of you together or for you solo? Carving out time for exercise, even just a few minutes, may make a difference and it could take any form - yoga, pilates, cardio, MMA - whatever appeals to you. Sometimes even when it seems like there’s no time in the day for short rituals, five minute breaks for nature and exercise, carving out time for these things ironically creates more time in the day. When you’re staring at a tree or sipping that tea, see how present you can be with it. Breathe in deeply and try (our minds are built to wander - so if that happens - it’s totally normal, don’t worry ) to stay as focused on that as you can. Dropping in to that moment mindfully and slowing our breathing down brings the parasympathetic system online (which “shakes off” at least a bit of the overwhelm). Usually when we feel overwhelmed, we end up being less productive because our learning centers have shut down. Offering moments of self-care and nurturance keep us balanced and allow our productivity levels to be higher throughout the day. So making time for that (even if it’s just five minutes here and there) is especially needed when we feel we have no time and can change our subjective experience of time (meaning we may get more done because we feel a bit calmer, so it “extends” time subjectively speaking). You seem very wise and I believe the answers lie within you. If anything I’ve shared makes sense, take it in and if not, discard it. Treat it as a springboard for your own thoughts and ideas and come up with what works for you. I’m sure you’ll come up with amazing ones and Archisa - I know you’ll get through this period! You sound like a very level-headed and resilient individual in spite of all these challenges (as the cliche goes, this too shall pass - the situation won’t last forever even though it seems like that at this time). Sending lots of love and compassion your way dear Archisa - take very good care of yourself. And keep writing to us as and when needed - we’re here to support you!
You have such a precious, thoughtful heart A. We definitely need more people in the world raising awareness of the importance of well-being in how the educational system works, so more power to you for feeling inspired and deciding to pursue that!
I agree with each and every word your said. Literally “each and every”!
Reading all the replies here really calms me. And seriously, we all need people like you beside us when we go through these tough times. Believe it or not, I already feel a lot better in just a single day after creating this post, thanks to all of you who replied.
I forgot to mention in my original post, I am also having Endometriosis for over a year now. So yes, that kind of made me suffer initially for three - four months (abdomen pain) till I visited the doctor. Now I am doing a lot better. That is why I couldn’t do much of physical exercise. But yes, I am soon going to start yoga. I have already talked to the instructor. And also, I started reading books such as “What the Buddha Taught”, “Conversations with God” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I am also taking several courses on Mindfulness at Coursera, and they are simply wonderful!
You can say, these books and courses keep me going. I am learning so much, just because of these tough times. That’s why I am grateful to these times. And yes, Raj’s course is one of those courses I am taking to become more positive, and I already am! Seeing him, I have already found a purpose in life — to spread more awareness about the importance of happiness and mindfulness, and how much stress can harm us (my father had brain hemorrhage). It’s scary how people ignore these things.
I hope we can meet in the next Zoom class, and there, I will definitely try to ask this question to Raj. I want to know how he could introduce the subject of happiness at ISB.
You have a wonderful heart too, Tanaz, and I’m so grateful to have friends like you here. Yes, I always to try to stay positive, and believe that these times are temporary. They will pass eventually.
Thanks a lot! Stay well.
I am so glad that you felt the love and support of the group holding you and that it offered you comfort at this time Archisa. I’m not surprised that you feel better and I’m glad that you are - it is a human need to feel seen, heard and understood, and that’s part of our shared humanity. Compassionate listening and responding can help so much. Sorry to hear about the Endometriosis - that can be intensely painful! I’m so relieved to read that you are feeling much better, and yes, you were wise to rest through that period. Maybe you can begin with breathing exercises and ease your way in to yoga. Consulting with an instructor who can help is wise.
You have that wonderful ability to take your pain and pull out the universal experience from it and share it with others. You also sound very resourceful and seem to have found deeper meaning through these tough times, using it like sandpaper to smoothen everything out, to build your resilience and grit. You clearly understand that it is not the situations themselves but our responses to them that matter, given your drive to read and look up courses that help you reframe how you look at situations (how wonderful that you feel more positive already! ) I admire that and see so much inner wisdom shining through in terms of your awareness, resourcefulness and ways you are coping/nurturing yourself. As much as tough times can lead to stress, they can also be periods of deep learning resulting in post traumatic growth and you are clearly well on your way. Remember to keep giving yourself permission to express how you feel honestly and on days when you need to cry, it’s okay to let that out too. Having that ability to hold it all and allow it all enriches our experience and learning. As Dr. Mate reminded us in the Wisdom of Trauma, the energy of trauma can ultimately be converted to the energy of life and yours is a shining example. I’m so touched that you’ve taken your dad’s loss and this challenging period as a learning ground for how you can help find ways to make the educational and life experiences of others more peaceful and enriching. Sending positive wishes for all your dreams to be realized and as always, much love and compassion to you.
Thank you again, @Tanaz.
I can’t explain how true and touching your words are. It’s as if you can read my mind. I told my mother about you and she was in awe.
I can tell from your replies that you are a wonderful person and can make anyone around you happy!
Take care and all the best.
Awwww! Your warm and meaningful words made my day Archisa. I’m glad that you felt what I shared from my heart in your own. That’s the reason we’re all on this planet together right? To see, hear and understand one another, to offer perspectives that help others and receive perspectives that help us navigate through times like these. Together. Tell your mother that I’m in awe of both of you - both strong and wise women.
My goal is to respond appropriately to contexts more than to make everyone happy. I’m a firm believer in fierce compassion, pushing for social justice and asking for change that makes things better for all of us now and especially the next generation. I accept what makes sense and question what doesn’t (often systems or policies that are laden with gender or racial bias). Sometimes there are opportunities for conversations that shift hearts and perspectives, but sometimes we have to be open to kicking you-know-what I have deep and very meaningful bonds with people who know me well. I always say the right people like me and the right people dislike me. And I encourage more women especially to stand in their power and not be afraid of that - we don’t have to be “nice” (i.e. doormats). we can set boundaries per our comfort levels, and we don’t need to please everyone (it’s also an impossible task and easy to lose ourselves in that process). It’s more important that we, like you are dong already, stay true to ourselves and our beliefs. Ultimately, that makes the world a better place for everyone because it allows us to connect with our special talents and therefore share our unique gifts with the world. Reframing is a powerful tool for change in every sphere, beginning with the personal. I’m so glad that you use it so well and have learned to do that early! You take care too - sending love and compassion to both your mom and to you.
Thanks again, @Tanaz. You always inspire me
You offer that to many people too. And there will be more to come, undoubtedly.
Suraj Sinha this side and I am also from Bihar. Parents from Gaya and I have had all my schooling and rendezvous in Patna itself.
I am not a student and quite senior to you. I am 41 years old. I passed out from science callege and moved to Delhi and then pune. Completed my graduation from Pune University, Fergusson college. I was doing quite ok and wanted to further my studies by doing MBA, but back home my parent situation was not quite good, had to choose between my MBA and my younger sis studies. I gave up on my dream and straight out of my graduation shifted to Delhi and joined a BPO, seems the only good option available at that time. Earned enough to help and support by whatever means I can and took care of my younger sis MBA as well as my parents in patna. By the year 2009 I was doing quite good and was Employed in INFOSYS Pune.
Life was going good, but again tragedy strikes and I was left with no other option but to move back to patna where my parents were alone and my mom was suffering badly due to her bad knees.
I left my job at Infosys and came back to patna. I was withdrawing a decent salary of 45k in hand at that time. But, upon reaching patna I had to start all over again, I joined a company and started my career in patna from 11k, yes, that was what I could get and since my financial situation was not good I joined it. Worked in patna for almost 10 years into sales.
Had my mother knee transplantation done and by that time even my younger sis was doing good in Bangalore. I decided to give it another try to my career and moved back to bangalore after a lot of discussion with my sis and parents. My dad was always supportive of me. Luckily, despite of pandemic I got a job in Bangalore in the month of January 2021, relocated from patna with my parents and joined my office 1st of feb 2021. My salary was 58k , which I thaught I decent enough considering I was new to this place and hardly knew any route or locality which is kind of a must if somebody is into sales domain.
Things were doing ok and I was trying to upskill myself as much as i could by diving into the analytics field. Started my studies again after almost 15-17 years.
But, again lightening striked, 2nd wave of pandemic came and my also my father was diagnosed with THROAT CANCER on 18th March 2022. It was 3rd stage as told by doctors. For the next 2 months I was completely involved into catering to my father chemotherapy and radiation as well as my office and whatever time I was left with, I dedicated it to learn things like SQL, Python etc.
My routine was…u used to get up at 03:30am in the morning. Used to study till 8am. After that I had to leave for my father hospital for radiation. By the time I used to reach home it was almost 10-10:30am. Immediately I ude to leave for office which was about 20km from my home. I used to come home by 8pm. And after going through with some study and dinner i was completely exhausted. No matter how much I tried , but the earliest I could hit my bed was by 10:30- 11pm.
Nothing has changed much, going through the same routine, but during the 2nd wave and lockdown I didn’t recieve my salary for the month of May 2021 and I also doubt whether I will recieve any for the month of June.
It’s been almost 2 months now and I am still learning, catering to my dad’s need. Desperately hoping that my dad get well soon as well as studying through and from whatever resources I can and as I am hell bent on taking care of my professional life as I have responsibilities on my shoulder. And yes, forgot to mention I have a lovely housewife and a 7 year old daughter as well.
I am fighting each day, learning, rising and trying to shine with every passing day. Anyways, my name is SURAJ, so I need to keep shining, no matter what.
Bottomline is, struggle and hardship are part of life. The more the struggle, the more I try. And I would advice the same to everybody. There is no point in cribbing, we should use our self to strive for the best. Always believe in yourself and your dreams, never ever let anything come in between . Keep striving, perseverance and hard work will definately sail you through tough times.
All the best:+1: Keep rocking
You are very hardworking and dedicated. Hope your father gets well very very soon. Wishing you all the success in your career. Sending love for your whole family.
Reciprocating the same to your family and yourself. Take care, work hard…and chrish what you have, never bother about things you don’t have.
I know, it’s easier said then done, but we should definately try to adhere to this saying.