You have exams coming up and you’re stressed, you can’t eat and you can’t sleep and when you wake up you’re so tired. You get annoyed with your mom and right now when you touch your palms they are sweaty.
So let me tell you a story. Recently, I attended a birthday party where my friend’s brother had organised some very unusual games. In one game there was this huge heap of stuffed toys and we were asked to pick up ONE toy which resembled us.
Everyone was quite excited about picking their toy though some people were mumbling that the toy they wanted was already picked by someone else and some were busy cracking jokes.
While waiting for the next set of instructions I started getting anxious, everyone else’s toy suddenly looked better than mine. Some were bright and pretty, the others were small and cute and mine was ‘this chimp’.
Soon all of us were given an empty glass, the exact same glass. And we were asked to fit our toy into that glass.
It was a struggle! Some people who had chosen smaller toys were cool and happy as they sat smiling at everyone else, while people with large teddy bears were caught saying – it’s not fair! there were only a few small toys, why me! this always happens to me etc. Stress started building up
And the reason this story is important when we are talking about how to deal with exam stress is that the toy was a little bit like us – odd shaped, different from the others, unique and the glass is that engineering entrance exam or the math paper.
Albert Einstein once said – Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Stress is caused from unrealistic and very high expectations
Now let’s change the ‘why’ in our questions to ‘what’.
So instead of asking – ‘why is this happening to me’, let’s ask ‘what is the solution’, ‘what can we do to make the toy fit in the glass’ and ‘what can we do to overcome our stress’.
I will give you three solutions and 1 bonus tip which I have learnt from Monks like Gaur Gopal Dasji, Shree Dandapani and from teachings of Buddha.
1. Solution #1 – Choose the right glass.
Are we following the herd? Let’s be honest, do we have the faith and courage to follow our own passion?
Are we in charge or are we just letting someone else run our lives.
Now this is the paradox, Stress happens when we try to control life and Lack of control is also one of the biggest causes of stress. So let’s look at what you can control and what you should not.
You can and should control your preparation, your attitude, your time management, your priorities, your expectations, your effort. In other words you can control the process – these should be your goals.
What you should not try to control is the outcome, the rank, the score, the gold medal, the admission – these are dreams not goals.
2. Solution #2 – Focus on the building the right skills –
I know how you feel trapped, that time is ticking, there’s no room for failing, I am already carrying the weight of past mistakes, what should I do?
Remember a single sheet of paper cannot decide your future.
Our own skills and knowledge will be our biggest strengths. Many times you already know for instance, that English may be your weak point or that you need to practice math everyday. You’ve made many new year resolutions to improve your communications skills. But you feel so stressed and demotivated that instead you just keep watching one tiktok video after another.
The Monks believe that everything happens for a reason and we should never regret the past, instead accept it for being a teacher in our lives. Shake off your excuses, take your own progress in your own hands and you will see magic happen in your life. Develop a passion for learning and make your toy more agile and flexible, such that it is now a perfect fit in the glass of your choice.
3. Solution #3 – Expand the container –
What if the glass somehow could become a large bowl and your toy could fit comfortably into that.
In the Monk’s language – expand the container means
a) to count your blessings, maintain a gratitude diary
b) think of what an amazing and talented person you are, remember all the good things,
c) enlarge your circle of friends to include inspiring and motivating people who trust you, try to stay away from people who make you feel small. Sharing your thoughts with friends calms you down.
d) enlarge your purpose by helping others who are struggling, this will make you stop focusing on your own pain,
e) enlarge your consciousness, make a spiritual connection to help you handle your pain.
Bonus Tip – Focus on one thing at a time –
our mind is a monkey – it keeps jumping from the present moment into the past or the future randomly. This causes stress. We imagine we are failing or we are wondering why our girlfriend broke up with us.
Try to control your awareness, focus on the present, focus on what you can control and be mindful – if the mind goes all over the place, take a break, bring your awareness back into the present and keep going.
My personal stress buster is Simby, my little Shihtzu.
Needless to say Look after yourself – take at least 7 hours of sleep, take vitamin C supplements, try to get 10 minutes of sunlight everyday, do some light exercise, sing in the shower and smile a lot. Following some daily ritual of meditation, mindfulness and reflecting on your inner thoughts will go a long way in creating a happy you.