How should one tackle depression and insecure feelings while preparing for the UPSC?

As you start preparing for a competitive exam like the UPSC CSE or any other exam, keeping your mind calm for a longer period is a challenging task. Given the testing nature of the examination and the intense competition, students go through feelings of self-doubt almost on a daily basis. Even the brightest students face difficulties in tackling stress and might be prone to feelings of anxiety, and in extreme cases face depression.

It is important to remember that depression is a mental health issue and just like any physical illness it needs care and treatment by specialised professionals. One should not ignore signs of depression. However, self-diagnosis is never a good idea. If you think you might be feeling anxious and have had depressive episodes you should consult a mental health professional. KIRAN helpline (1800-599-0019) by the government of India is one such initiative.

Once you have spoken to professionals and gotten on a treatment plan it is important to programme your brain in such a way as to understand warning signs and triggers and act in a manner to address the issue. A few steps which you can follow to improve or tackle the feeling of depression while preparing for UPSC CSE or any other competitive exam are:

Having a support system around you

In addition to seeking professional help, it is important to surround yourself with people who have your back no matter what. Talk to these people and inform them of your feelings. It is important to accept that there is no shame in feeling the way you are feeling. If you have been facing bouts of depression it is crucial that you seek help from people around you. Talk about it to your parents, friends, teachers or mentors whoever you are closest to.

Acknowledge your feelings, it is okay to not feel okay

Acknowledge that it is okay to take a break and focus on your mental health. Do not think of it as a waste of time. You did not study because you were not feeling well. Never feel guilty for putting your mental health first. It is okay to not feel okay all the time. There is always going to be ups and downs in our life. You must know that nothing is permanent. Hence, this too shall pass.

Do not fear failure

While preparing for an examination, one always thinks about the future. What if I do not pass this exam? What will my family and friends think about me? And the fear of failure becomes stressful. Hence, one cannot focus fully on the task present in front of us. But, you should always remind yourself that your failure does not define you. No matter if you will clear the exam or not, there always will be a way to find your true existence.

Stepping out

It might seem a little overwhelming at the time, the simple idea of stepping out of your room. But going out on a walk or simply sitting in the sun for some time can calm you down. If you wake up feeling low, push yourself to step out even for a few minutes. Even minor exercises on a daily basis in your own apartment will not only keep you healthy but will improve your concentration and thinking.

Proper rest

Getting adequate sleep for 6-7 hours on a daily basis helps us to concentrate better and improve our performance. This becomes even more important when you are undergoing feelings of depression.

Meditation

Practising mindfulness and meditation can change your whole life altogether. Meditation clears your mind and allows you to think with more clarity, clear thoughts can help you to study well and keep you away from stress. 

Reward yourself

Studying the whole day is frustrating, Right? Then, why not give yourself a reward after every task. Remember, when you used to get good marks in school, the teacher used to give you toffee or chocolate which encouraged you to study more. But, as we all have grown up, our rewards have changed. Hence, after completing every task you must give yourself a reward such as, after completing your daily targets, you can watch an episode of your favourite TV series and so on.

Finally, it is important to remember that UPSC CSE is just an exam like any other exam. Do not make it your whole life. Talk to your near and dear ones. This journey will give you a lot of life lessons. So, be ready to learn those lessons with a smile on your face. This is how heroes are made. Self-confidence and self-motivation play a key role in your performance in the different stages of the exam. Similarly, control over nervousness helps you in the optimum expression of your true knowledge. So acknowledge your feelings and observe the triggers and prioritise your mental health.