UPSC General Skills (Part 2): Dealing with Stress

Be The Warrior Not The Worrier ; Angela Ceberano

What is ‘Stress’?

Any change in the environment that requires an adjustment or a response from your body. The way the body responds is either through mental, emotional or physical changes. Although stress as an everyday term carries a negative connotation; stress can actually be either positive or negative.

Eustress, is a positive type of stress that builds motivation and increases our focus, gets us excited and increases our performance. Some examples of this can be when we start preparing for civil services, we experience eustress which can motivate us to study a lot harder than usual or getting ready for tests.

In comparison to Eustress, Distress is a way to describe negative emotions and this type of stress is what induces anxiety or nervousness. It is always seen as impairing our performance or focus leaving us with (perceived) lesser coping ability.

Eg: scoring poorly on tests, infirmity or being away from family for extended periods of time.

In response to this, our body’s fight or flight response gets activated and your body releases stress hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase heart rate, breathing becomes rapid, your blood pressure starts to rise.

You have to understand that stress in and of itself is not bad. It evolved as a survival mechanism and therefore we need some amount of stress in order to optimize our performance and increase our focus. Sometimes we experience stress at levels that impair our ability to study and perform.

This is where the Yerkes-Dodson curve comes into play. This curve shows the relationship between stress and performance. According to the curve, some amount of stress is required to motivate us into doing things. This optimum level of stress can actually enhance our performance. When the stress becomes unbearable, we tend to perform poorly.

A lot of candidates are often away from home and experience homesickness and other stressors which can impair their performance. So dealing with stress in a healthy and sustainable way can be of paramount importance.

Here are some methods that can help a candidate deal with stress. You can try to incorporate these in your life. By making this a regular habit, you can reduce your stress buildup and focus on living a healthier and balanced life.

Pranayama and Yoga.


We need to look no further than our own traditions and practices to ensure that we are able to enjoy a peaceful state of mind. Pranayama is an exercise that lends itself to all times and locations. We can practice this as we wind down in the evening before sleeping. We can practice this in the morning as we wake. We’ve talked in our blogs before about a study ritual. Breathing exercises are a lovely way to incorporate into a pre study session ritual.

You can refer to YouTube for a session on guided meditation or Pranayama.

Seek Support:


The support of loved ones has an immeasurable psychological impact on the way think. It can even fundamentally influence the kind of person you grow up to be.

The mentors at Officers IAS Academy are always available to you for counselling. They utilize their hard earned life experience to help you harness your abilities and talk you off emotional ledges that you may experience. This is a helpful perspective from someone who has tread where you have before and come out successfully.


This is a very important component of taking care of oneself. Exercise produces endorphins which contribute to the overall happiness and satisfaction a person experiences. Exercise also reduces the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. By doing this on a regular basis one is able to ensure that they lead a happy, active and well balanced life. This doesn’t have to be a solo activity, you can take long, brisk walks with your family. You can listen to All India Radio podcasts when working out. This will let you sleep better allowing you to wake up more refreshed and ready to learn. The quality of sleep is also better. This makes exercise of the most essential components in your crack UPSC arsenal.

Self Care

Self care is something we often neglect when preparing for UPSC. We are usually in reduced social circumstance and focused on information gathering. The onslaught of this repeated cycle may take a toll on your mental health. It is advisable therefore to give yourself permission to take some time off to do things you enjoy. It can be a high density activity like watching a movie with a friend, a trip to Mahaballipuram. This is where you can complete disconnect from your study. Taking short one day trips can be just as beneficial as a longer trip on your mental health. You can also give room for activities like reading a novel, meditating etc everyday. Take 30 minutes to an hour everyday to do something you love and want to do consistently.

What this does for you is it helps you avoid burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

The journey to becoming an officer is not a sprint it is marathon. By taking a holistic perspective on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing can you find the fortitude to face this behemoth and cross to the other side successfully.


Best Wishes
Officers IAS Academy – Best IAS Coaching in Chennai.

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