Hello, all! I hope you’re having a good December. I’m still recovering from my biennial encounter with the monster known as end-sem exams, so I thought I’d write about that today.
As you may know, I deal with anxiety and depression on a regular basis. I know many of you do, too. So here’s a handy guide to enjoy the period after your exams while fighting your battles:
Expectation #1 : After forgetting what sleep is for weeks, I’ll finally collapse in bed and snore!
Sleeping, admittedly, is not one of my favourite things to do. I tend to ‘oversleep’ a lot, because for some reason my body never got the message that I’m no longer a hormonal teenage requiring twelve hours of sleep just to recover from the strain of existing. On top of that, my natural body rhythm is nocturnal, which is not a great idea for either my health or my severe anxiety issues. Irregular sleeping patterns can seriously mess with both.
Naturally, I’ve been trying to change that and go to sleep at a healthier time. Naturally, that plan is failing. Day before yesterday, I had to wrestle with my eyelids to keep reading whatever essay I’d been trying to study. Last night, I stayed up until 2:38 am- by accident. I literally did not realise it was that late, was thinking it might be midnight at the latest, when suddenly I was facing the witching hour.
The best thing to try is to take it slow, one night at a time.
They say that it takes 3 weeks to break out of an old habit and form a new one, so set that as your concrete goal. Remind yourself it’s reachable. Convince yourself to go to bed a little earlier each day: say, 1:30 am. Then a little more. Then a little more. Keep this up for as long as you can, or until you reach your preferred time/ the end of three weeks. I’m trying this out. Try it with me!
Expectation #2: I will relax and do all the things I love, slowly, in a relaxed manner, with a relaxed frame of mind.
Reality: lma0 son there is no relaxation for anyone trippin’ balls on 54342384 ounces of fear about their future.
Lately, I’ve been feeling strangely angry all the time, with a growing sense of frustration about a lot of things in my life. The feeling has been sneaking up on me, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I finally figured out what was happening: I was feeling stressed. (Yes, yes, duh, I know, but I’ve discovered over the years that one can be quite myopic about their own problems.) So I thought- huh, after-exam time? Perfect time to relax! Watch some TV shows! Do a little painting! Practice some meditation, maybe! Listen to some new music!
Guess what I’m actually doing?
Turns out, post-exam time is the PERFECT combination of free time + lots of thoughts about the future you face. There is no relaxing for someone who’s actually terrified of actually everything: everything being all those shifting intangible abstract possibilities we like to sum up in the word ‘future’. Worried about my career after graduation? Check. Worried I’m not doing enough of poetry, fiction and blogging? Check. Worried about money and how to earn it? Check. Worried about money and how to save it? Check. There are simply too many uncertainties to deal with.
The most important lesson this has taught me is that relaxation has very little to do with work.
Being ‘relaxed’ really is a frame of mind, not just a question of having less things to do. And the only way to do it is to get to the core of your problems, untangle them and figure them out. It’s the resolution that will help you relax.
Expectation #3: I will spend all of this time I now have doing things I did not get to do earlier!
Reality: Uh, no.
This one should’ve been a no-brainer, but check #2; I genuinely believed I’d be able to relax.Being trapped in an ever-increasing state of anxiety and frustration isn’t great for productivity, it seems.I can’t do anything: write the poems I want to, craft the stories, create the blogposts. All I can do is stare mindlessly at my laptop screen and keep scrolling and keep scrolling, which, funnily enough, I used to do before and during my exams as well. And then I spot other people’s achievements and what they’re doing with their time, which of course makes me despair even more.
I’ve decided to fall back on my age-old advice to solve this cycle: lie fallow.
Let yourself chill for a bit. Don’t worry: about doing things or about what others are doing. Keep your mind engaged with light-hearted things so it has less time to focus on the negativity. Me, for example: I’ve devoured all 5 Percy Jackson books and the next 4 in the Heroes of Olympus series in the past three days. It was amazing. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in ages.
Expectation #4: I will pick up the slack in terms of self-care, which I’ve been neglecting to do for a while!
Reality: Well, I’m trying, but who knew mustering the will to take a shower could be this hard?
Of all the things that I tend to ignore when I’m upset, self-care- simple things like eating on time, sleeping on time, making sure my environment is clean and tidy, giving myself hugs and reminders to carry on- is the most affected. I just give up. I don’t care about my appearance or my room. I have too many things going on in my mind.
Now that the exams are done, I hoped to be able to move on and slowly get back into the rhythm of things again. I need to clean out my cupboard, rearrange the books on my desk, maybe get my brows threaded. But it’s proving extraordinarily hard.
For this one, there’s nothing to do except keep trying.
Slowly, one day at a time. Today I stepped out of the house and went on a bus-tour of the city, just because. It felt good to be in the sunshine. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll take a nice long shower and put on some luxurious oil. The day after, I think I’ll try some baking with my mom, and clean up my room. I’m trying to focus on one act of self-caring each day. That’s more than enough.
Expectation #5: I’ll go out with friends and eat at awesome places and party like there’s no tomorrow!
Reality: I forgot we live in a capitalist society where to do any of those things you need money, which is a precious, ie unavailable resource.
I’ll tell you the truth: while we’ve been observing the domino effect of demonitisation around us, although personally, I have often been angered on behalf of others, the move has not affected me one bit. Why? Because I had no money to be affected by it in the first place.
Now, I’m trying my best. I teach three adorable kids whom I’m pretty sure I’d teach for free anyway- they’re perfect. I do spates of content writing now and then to keep my bank account afloat. But looking for some kind of stable, regular job that will keep me occupied and happy? That is proving harder to find. I can’t seem to find the energy to search, either, because I’m too busy having a mental breakdown™.
Of course, the answer to this is self-evident: keep searching slowly, gently, without feeling like the crack of doom will approach if I don’t find anything.
Meanwhile, I’d just like to thank my friends who make time for my tantrums, feed me home-made things and roadside chai and provide me with the occasional therapeutic hangover. I’m lucky to have them, even if I forget they exist once in a while.
There’s no denying that exams are a challenge almost too painful to overcome for many of us.
For people like me who struggle with anxiety, it may be even worse. I observed on Twitter recently that I cried thrice in two days during these, a personal record even for me. However, I’ve noticed that they can also have a strangely cleansing effect. They feel like a close of an open wound: painful, but worth it in the end, if only for the ten-page-long answer in illegible handwriting I turned in for one of them.
The period after them is crowded with a lot of expectations.
We feel like we should be doing and feeling things: jubilant, celebratory, relaxed, better. But life doesn’t work that way, and negative feelings are harder to dissipate.
So I’d say this: just slow down.
Do this consciously. Take more time to eat your lunch. Read the newspaper one page at a time. Close your eyes and listen to only one song, paying attention to each of its beats.Watch something frame by frame, paying attention to everything. Remind yourself that you don’t have to do anything faster now. You have the time to do this. Luxuriate in that sensation.
And slowly, hopefully, that fear of being perpetually chased by a deadline will lessen.
SPIKTINOT IS NOW OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS.
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In case you didn’t notice, Spiktinot is back from her creator’s self-imposed sabbatical for exams! (Not that it did me any good. When will I realise that no amount of exile a month before the exams will save me after I’ve wasted the entire semester?)
Anyway, this year, for the first time, I’ve decided to take part in Blogmas. For the uninitiated, Blogmas is that wonderful time of the year when a bloggers puts stuff on their beloved intraweb portal every day for the month of December, leading up to Christmas. I’m fairly sure the practice started on Youtube, possibly first done by the inimitable vlogbrothers, and then found its way here- but it might just also be the other way round.
So here I am with my first offering for 2016’s Blogmas, the first I have ever participated in! If you liked this guide, do share it with your friends. See you on Spiktinot tomorrow!