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How to Avoid Burnout While Preparing for UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE)? (Pt 2)

  • 05 Nov 2019

How to Overcome a Burnout?

After having gone through such a long discourse on what is burnout and what the reasons for it are, let us now focus on what are some of the simplest steps that we can take to stay away from the risk of burning out while preparing for UPSC CSE.

Steps to Overcome a Burnout

  • 6-8 hours of undisturbed sleep: The human body, since ages, have learnt to adapt to survive in various stressful conditions. It is because of this fact that our species has survived for so long. But the question now is - for how long can we manage stress? If we start putting our body through a lot of stress and discomfort, and keep doing it for a long time, initially our body will resist but then, as nature intended, we will get adapted. But slowly after some time, we will start realising that our body needs a considerable amount of energy to function. And if we expect our body to really catch up with us, we will need to supply it with constant doses of energy which we can easily get by sleeping properly for a good 6-8 hours a day. One must never consider sleep as a waste of time. On the contrary, these napping hours will ensure that our faculties get a well-deserved rest. This way our body will catch up with our pace of work (and life). Sleep is thus, the best natural rejuvenation one can find and it works for the best in our case.
  • Short rests in between long hours of gruelling study: Sitting for long hours at a stretch can be mentally tiring. We might soon start feeling headaches, blurriness or even a feeling of suffocation. Short 10 to 15 minute breaks during study hours are a must. If one feels stress building up, one can listen to soft music or even practice short yoga sessions to relieve of the stress. Moreover, a brisk walk in the park or garden can also be a great option for refreshment. The point here is that one has to take the mind away from books during these short breaks.
  • Mindful eating: Many a times, it can been seen that CSE aspirants tend to eat less, or worse eat whatever they can find easily during their preparation period (especially true if living away from home). Aspirants must understand that such habits are unhealthy and would make their body weak and prone to diseases which in turn would affect their capacity to prepare. A mindful healthy diet is therefore a must if one were to succeed in this exam.
  • Continuously motivating yourself: The right motivation can turn the tides in one’s favour miraculously. CSE aspirants should know the importance of motivation in their life. There are many inspirational speeches by UPSC rank holders and also by other motivational speakers that can help one feel spiritedly high. Also, watching movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Coach Carter etc are good because it can provide the necessary mental push needed when one is feeling low.
  • Cutting off negative people: There is no dearth of negative people surrounding us. CSE aspirants need to understand that people with negative feelings should be at best avoided. Any kind of negative thoughts or discussions can become a deterrent while pursuing the CSE goal. It can especially become more dangerous when one is in his weakest moments. Rather, when at times one is feeling really down or discouraged it is best to be around people, friends or family, who can instil positivity in us. People who say, “you cannot do it” or “this is really difficult and not something you can manage” or “don’t waste your time as it’s unachievable for you”, etc. should always be kept at bay.
  • Not cutting off your social life: It is one of the most prominent myths related with the CSE examination that staying away from your social life is critical for success. One can think that becoming the modern-day version of a hermit can assure us of our success, however, and on the contrary, completely shutting off our social life can become one of the main reasons for a burnout. So, a mindful social life is also important to avoid burnout and to achieve success in the CSE.
  • Talking to your parents/mentors more often: Sometimes, parents or mentors may be the ones who can lift our mood greatly. This is because there is a sense of assurance that they are the ones who mean the best for us, always. Talking to them or seeking their guidance is going to help immensely whenever a sense of helplessness or a feeling of confusion engulfs the mind. At times, we may even have that one or two close friends or relatives who inspire us and help us elevate our motivation levels. Keeping in touch with such folks is gainful and therefore recommended.
  • Exercising daily: This point here, needs to be stressed a lot because exercising is really important for a CSE aspirant. When aspirants start preparing for this examination, mostly what they do is either they sit at home or in a classroom or at a library, and this cuts down physical activities to a huge extent. In doing so, we technically become couch-potatoes which can be really harmful for our health. So, if aspirants cannot take out much time out for a complete workout or for extensive exercises then they should at least do short 5-10 minutes exercise sessions in between study schedules 2-3 times daily. This will help the body stretch and relax and as a result the mind will be able to focus better on study.
  • Taking mock tests for what they are: Though giving mock tests is really important for gaining experience and getting feedback, the marks obtained in these exams are in itself not the most important thing. Rather, what these marks are used for is what that really matters. Many aspirants are seen comparing their own marks with others who have scored high in such mocks, and after doing which, it is often observed that they can go into a shell of some sort in order to protect their own scores from criticism. This is not a fruitful behaviour because the central purpose of mock tests are to let candidates know about the level of their preparation so that they can improve their preparation. Moreover, if candidates are to compare marks, they should compare it with their own previously scored marks instead of with marks of others. So, a mindful reviewing of mock test scores is advised.
  • Believing in yourself: It is a well known fact that when you believe in yourself, half the battle is already won. Keep reminding yourself why you have embarked on this journey. Each time you are reminded of the reason and your goal flashes in front of your eyes, it will make you realise that all the sacrifices you have gone through are not meaningless. You will then realise that you are, in fact, on the right path!
  • Playing some sport once a week: This is probably one of the very basic things that we are taught while at school. The importance of sports cannot be reiterated enough. Sports, just like exercises, helps one remain physically fit. The added advantage of playing a sport is that while playing a sport, we also use our mental powers to react, think quick, or even to plan out strategies. It helps, as such, in our brain becoming more active. If aspirants do not find the time to play some sport on a daily basis, playing even once a week should be more than enough.
  • Setting small, realistic and achievable goals for a day: Preparing a time-table to cover the vast syllabus of CSE is only the first step. After that, planning for small and achievable goals within that time-table (like reading the Hindu newspaper inside of 45 minutes), and planning it for everyday, is also critical. This is important because doing so provides us with a sense of achievement at the end of each day. Feeling accomplished works magically for the betterment of our various psychological states. The daily accomplishment of goals and recalling it while retiring for the night can help us recharge our batteries and bring us closer to our goals.
  • Giving yourself small incentives: On completion of a daily goal (could be weekly too), we could give ourselves a small incentive or reward in the form of a small gift or treat. This is a great method for teaching oneself to work enthusiastically towards achieving one’s own goals. If you remember, in order to make us learn, our parents, teachers and elders had all tried this strategy on us when we were young. Perhaps it is now time that we use this strategy on ourselves. Do give it a try!
  • Taking out time for your hobbies: Last but not the least, to avoid burnout, pursue hobbies. The importance here is on connecting to a hobby emotionally so that it refreshes the mind from time to time. In any case, one has to fill up hobbies in the Detailed Application Form (DAF) for Mains Exam, so there is no harm in pursuing your favourite hobby during your preparation.

To conclude, when you look back at the above points you will have realised that although the issue of burnout is severe, the preventive methods are relatively very simple. It’s all mind play. What you feed the mind is exactly what it returns back to you. So, why not be masters of our own mind and conquer all of our dreams? And, let us also spread this awareness and stand up against the issue of burnout such that the next time when any CSE aspirant says “I am feeling a burnout..”, we reply “Burnout? What is that?!”

Read Part - 1

 Aparajitha Nair 

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