UPSC General Skills, Part 3:Dealing with Burnout

The civil services examination is a formidable exam. It requires immense patience, consistency and practice. For some this may be an easier dragon to slay than for others. However one common danger that all aspirants may experience because of their ambitious schedule is the danger of burnout.

Burnout, as defined by David Ballard with the American Psychological Association, is an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things resulting in a decline in their performance.

Burnout is characterized by near constant exhaustion, a lack of motivation in everything, frustration and cynicism where you feel like you may never clear this exam. This happens when you experience stress for prolonged periods of time. The thing about burnout is that it takes a while for this to occur. So in the meantime, if you recognize the signs of burnout in yourself or others, you can start to take measures to prevent actual burnout.

There can be a lot of reasons for burnout. You can experience poor health which may set you back. You can experience a few mentally draining issues like homesickness, stress, inability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. You can even experience a lack of personal motivation after months of study that derails your preparation. There can even be other things preying on your mind such as family problems, financial matters, time management issues hampering your ability to study.

The important thing to acknowledge here is that some factors are beyond your powers. You may need help from others to solve these things. We will go in detail to deal with them eventually, but for now let’s focus on burnout.

Burnout is a problem that is better prevented than cured. It is as the adage foretold, easier to prevent burnout than it is to cure it. However, it is important to recognize the constant exhaustion and depressive state you sometimes find yourself in as being caused by burnout.

While we’ve emphasized the importance of prevention, you may wonder what to do when you are already experiencing the signs of burnout. Let’s look at some tips and tricks that will help us avoid burnout or cure it as the case may be.

Don’t Spread Yourself too Thin.


Your mind is the sharpest and deadliest tool you have against UPSC. Just as you would hone the edge of your favourite knife to keep it sharp, you need to hone your mind. You can do this by limiting the number of hours you study. Study in short bursts with ‘blistering intensity’. Study early in the morning. Allot one day every week for revising everything you’ve studied that week. Keep a copy of syllabus, read it as you would a holy book- regularly and with great devotion. Don’t read one book at a stretch for 8 hours, switch it up- read Polity in the morning, Geography in the evening, Medieval History in the afternoons. Take a test to revise the concepts you studied before bed.

Never mix two concept heavy subjects on the same day. Try studying Polity from Laxmikanth. Read Geography through imagery and audio-visual means. Combine Economy with Art and Culture. One is concept heavy and the other lends itself to study through imagery.

You can also increase your ability to work and focus by working out regularly. It does not have to be a high intensity cardio workout. It can even be something casual like power walking or yoga. As long as the body is able to exercise for 28 minutes a day, studies have shown a positive correlation between exercise and learning ability. Daily exercise increased the brain’s capacity to learn over longer periods of time. This is also influenced by other factors such as nutrition, quality of sleep. All three of these factors enhance ability to learn.



There is a great emphasis on cleanliness even from back in the time of Indus Valley Civilization. Their drainage systems and Great Baths are enduring proof of this. Psychologically speaking, a clean study and living space is more conducive to periods of intense study than cluttered spaces. Take a day off to declutter your living space and your study space. If you can find the time, set up systems that will ensure that you can continue this streak of organized and clean living.

Setting systems that can help you stay organized and on top of your chores in a time saving manner is always a plus for an aspirant. For working professionals and students who live far from home, watching videos or tv when you do your chores can be an effective way to decompress after a tough day or even a learning oppotunity. Multitasking in a smart way, that is, with chores that don’t require a lot of thought can be a way for you to get a lot of things done.



Always take time to take a break from your studies on a regular basis. This is important for all aspirants, especially working professionals. You need to take some time at regular intervals to decompress and enjoy yourself.  This will also increase and renew your ability to study effectively.

While you’re taking breaks, keep in mind that there are two types of fun. The high density and low density fun. The low density fun is the kind of instant gratification you experience when you satisfy your brain’s craving for novelty. It’s the quick Instagram and Facebook browsing or checking for messages that we do. This is satisfying at that moment but it does nothing for the long term benefits. In fact, it may even have the opposite effect and shatter your ability to concentrate for lengthy periods of time.

High density fun on the other hand is when you are able to breakaway from your studies for extended periods of time. This can be something as simple as a day trip with friends and family where you’re able to separate yourself from your studies. You can even go watch a movie, or go hiking to a nearby nature trail. Anything that will engage you enough to not think about your studies for a few hours is a good high density fun activity.

Ask for Help.


When you’re feeling too overwhelmed by your preparation or experiencing anxiety regarding your performance- ask for help. At Officers IAS Academy we have a mentoring program called Hansei where the faculty will guide their young charges through this laborious exam and are available for both scholarly and emotional counselling. These are individuals who have stood where you stand and have gone beyond their fears, their doubts and achieved not just success but glory as officers who served the nation with great pride and dignity.

You don’t have to simply take their advice. If you feel unaccustomed or shy talking about your problems, just call up a close friend or family member and speak to them. It is immensely relieving just to be heard by a loved one.

We hope these tips helped you with being able to handle your burnout. For more queries, reach out to us via grievance redressal box. Your wellbeing is of paramount importance to us.


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

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