How do you avoid overwhelm during UPSC preparation?
As I teach you 4 ways to avoid being overwhelmed, before that I just want to quickly differentiate between overwhelm and burnout.
Overwhelming makes you feel like you have been flooded with a lot of work, obligations, commitments etc. And it makes you feel that you cannot handle at this moment so much.
On the other hand, burnout means you have been doing a lot of work, or handling things for too long and now you are totally exhausted.
Sometimes you feel both!
I will cover the “burnout” part in another article. This article is totally focused towards “how to avoid being overwhelmed”.
I am assuming that at this moment there are a lot of things coming at you. Your syllabus is pending, you are lagging behind in revision, someone is talking about some topic that you haven’t heard, there’s a lot of information which is confusing, you are having self doubt or you are expecting a lot from yourself, some have relationship issues, so basically your mind is running tons of thoughts.
I totally understand all of these things. And let me tell you one thing, it is absolutely normal. Yes, you have heard me right, it is absolutely normal to have all these kind of thoughts. It is natural! We all get tons of thoughts every single day. However there is a way of dealing with all of this. And I am going to give you the recipe.
First and foremost, I am also assuming that you are in a position to say “no” or you have been saying “no” to things that is ruining your productivity. You been keeping your boundaries set, and only taking on things that you believe you really want to take on.
1. Start your day organized
If you block your time out well during the day, then you will begin your day knowing what you have to do. So every single day I want you to quickly write down a list of things that you need to study. Initial days just experiment how much can you read and accordingly add more topics to the list. When you have a list in front of you, then you are not going to feel overburdened.
Plus, save these lists by writing dates on it. You can look at these lists, and remind yourself what to revise after a week or after a month. Trust me, if you follow this step you will be so much happy to start your day.
2. Switch well between projects / work / topics
What I mean by this is, if you are going from project A to project B or if you are studying one topic and switching over to another one. Let’s say you were reading geography, after that you switch to economics. In between give your brain some time to reset, so that it adapts well to the next project or topic.
If you don’t do that, then you force your brain to smash from project to project, topic to topic and it will drain you. So your brain needs that little silence time to move from one topic to another. That will bring focus and creativity!
In that silence time, try doing something that you enjoy. You can do meditation for 10 minutes, or play a game or sport that you like. Anything that takes your mind joyfully away.
3. Give yourself the freedom to do anything for 30 minutes at the end of the day
Its called catch up time. So at the end of the day, before your dinner give yourself half an hour or so to catch up on things. Think about what you want to catch up on for 30 minutes. And do this before your dinner, don’t try to do it before sleep because then you will not sleep.
Dinner time acts like an alarm. As soon as you’re done with 30 minutes, you go and have your dinner and then you sleep. Even if you feel that you need to study a lot. That’s ok, give yourself 30 minutes at the end of the day before dinner.
If you do not give yourself this catch up time, then the whole purpose behind whatever that you want to achieve becomes meaningless. We are humans, and we need to behave like one while doing everything in life.
Use this catch up time to talk to whoever that you want to, go out somewhere, watch comedy. Even the elite Olympic athletes have their catch up time. Extreme isolation isn’t good!
4. It’s simple – be more mindful!
This point is very simple, it is not something strategic. At some point of your life, and i mean as a mature adult you need to achieve a higher level of consciousness i.e. bringing your awareness in the present moment.
As you are preparing more and more everyday you experience so much of emotions. Sometimes it can easily freak you out and create panic. In moments like that, you need to be calm and have peace in your mind. You will have to tell yourself – “its ok, i can deal with all this chaos from a good place”.
You may get thoughts like:- will I clear this exam, or will i be able to get a rank that is good enough for IFS, IAS or IPS, or if i don’t clear UPSC then what? All these thoughts can freak you out easily.
But, if you are mind full of being in the present and do not worry about the outcome. There is a famous quote “focus on the process and not the outcome”. If you do that, then i guarantee you it will develop your character. You just have to meet the demands of the present moment. Do not think too much about the future, and don’t dwell on the past.
Trust me, you do this it will bring peace, joy, strength from a good place which exists deep within your core.