A PhD scholar of the prestigious IIT Madras recently died by suicide and his brother alleged that it was due to the pressure mounted by his guide. When I hear news like this, it makes me feel sad and hopelessly helpless! I don't need to explain the former but the reason I feel the latter is that I'm constantly trying to figure out the best way to touch the lives of those who are on the verge of calling it quits, and to do my best to make them bounce back.

Hence, today I'm going to be talking about how to deal with pressure in an institute, whether it's when one's expectations are not met, or when dealing with situations in which a guide/mentor is adding to the pressure instead of easing the process, or when the institute's rules feel oppressive.

First step - Understanding the root of it

Student life is usually the most exciting phase as it's filled with fun, learning, exploring, experimenting and self-discovery. But with all these, the pressure to perform and meet the expectations of our parents and people around us is immense. Being aware and mindful of when we are feeling pressured makes a mountain of difference in handling ourselves better, as compared to becoming emotionally distressed and/or overwhelmed.

The best way to achieve this is to understand our own self and the triggers that throw us off balance. There are two main types of triggers: PHYSICAL and EMOTIONAL triggers. Physical ones are those that include an increase in heart rate, breathing, sweating, feeling the mouth run dry, butterflies in the stomach, and so on. Emotional triggers are those that make you lose focus or become prone to physical triggers like negative thoughts, self-doubt, and fearing the worst outcomes.

Next step - Handling it like a boss

Deep breaths
Once we train ourselves to identify the moment we are triggered, the rest becomes easy and the first and most important technique to follow is deep breathing. Irrespective of where you are, who you are around and what situation you're in, if you feel the need to recalibrate yourself, just take deep breaths and calm down.

Positive self-talk
This is a tested technique that works wonders and helps you handle pressure with ease. What you tell yourself is what you'll do for yourself. Don't believe me? Just sit and think... You'll be doing exactly the opposite (negative self-talk), and that's why you're feeling stumped in the first place.

It's mind over matter
Use the power of your mind to visualise, create, and constantly see positive results and outcomes. This might take some time to get a hang of, but once you do, you can confidently say goodbye to self-doubts.

Final step - Remember that you're the boss

I'm not inferring to becoming a dictator or not giving a damn about others. I'm making you realise that you're indeed the boss of your own life and don't have to succumb to any situation that puts you in danger, especially when it comes to making you feel depressed, cause harm or danger to your life.

As the proverb goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Similarly, there's more than one way to achieve your goal, especially in today's world wherein we have so many options. All I'm trying to say is if one way doesn't work, there's always another. But whatever happens, there's absolutely no way that you're going to lose hope as it's just not worth it!

Remember that life is a very long journey and these situations that are making us overwhelmed are just like temporary speed breakers that we encounter on a long drive. The destination is what is motivating us to drive all the way in the first place, right? Remember your goal and remind yourself of the reason you started on this path in the first place. Remember the motivation behind your decision. That'll keep you going. 

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Learn to say NO when you're being pushed too much, too far.

2. Seek help if you're unable to handle a situation, be it any situation, from anyone who's genuine, and has your best interests at heart.

3. Be frank and open about your feelings, especially with your parents. If you're feeling that it's too much to handle, be vocal and loud about it.

It doesn't matter if you're perceived as weak or incapable. Not many know and understand the amount of strength it takes to accept, acknowledge and do what's best for our headspace (Mental State). It's easy to point fingers when they're not in your shoes. For those who are still not convinced, here's one of my own quotes based on my experience: Remember that knowing one's limits is a true strength in itself. It takes a lot of maturity and patience to understand our limits.

As I sign off, remember that it's absolutely OK to refuse and relax rather than to accept and regret! Stay strong; life is precious.

Adarsh Benakappa Basavaraj
Your Coach


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