We’ve heard about how elite athletes cope with pressure. They are mentally tough. It shields them … nay, helps them cope with or even thrive in adverse situations. That’s mental toughness. To perform your best amid high expectations or to cope with adversity.
The question is, are some people born mentally tougher than others? Or is it a skill that can be taught?
You might have guessed the answer to that! It’s a skill that can be taught of course. Otherwise, there’s no use writing a blog post about it, is there?
Firstly, why should CA, CS and CMA aspirants develop mental toughness skills?
Well, because of the demanding nature of the courses involved. You’d have to be very dedicated and hard working. You’ll see your friends having fun on the days you are forced to study. Secondly, if, God-forbid, you failed in an attempt, you’d have to pick up the pieces and re-motivate yourself to succeed despite this set-back.
Secondly, you need to be self-motivated. You should know that the road ahead is a long and difficult one … but with amazing rewards at the end of the journey. But to stay on that road is what makes the whole enterprise hard. There may be many deviations and pitfalls. You may get side-tracked or distracted. But at the end of the day, you should learn how to force yourself to get back on that road and complete the journey.
With just a few mental toughness training skills, we hope to show you a way that will help you recover after a stumble. Bear in mind though, that there is no substitute for learning the material. These tips will just help you overcome adversity in times of strife.
But before we proceed, we suggest that, if you haven’t already, read our post on overcoming exam anxiety. Many of the techniques mentioned in that post will apply here.
Now, without further ado, here are 5 tips that will help you increase your mental toughness and help you build resilience.
5 tips that help you increase your mental toughness
You need to be self-aware. By being self-aware, we don’t mean that you should become a Zen master or something like that! Only, that you should be aware of your own shortcomings and strengths. You should know your own triggers and what motivates/demotivates you. If you are feeling very down and not able to start studying, then perhaps listening to some stirring music will help you get in the mood. You know yourself best.
Think back to when you were in the zone, as it were. What were the triggers? Were you feeling relaxed? Anxious but able to channel that nervous energy into productivity?
Try keeping a daily journal or diary to write down your thoughts about your mood and feelings. Go over it and analyse when, how and why you were in a good mood and were able to study well. Conversely, find out what your negative triggers and stay away from them! Many people find that some negative triggers are due to excessive social media activity and the like. So, stay away from social media! So perhaps one exercise when studying is to hand over any and all devices from which you can access social media to your parents and/or trusted friends or siblings.
Visualisation is an effective method to increase sports performance wherein athletes visualise themselves playing a great game. While studying for and passing courses like CA, CS or CMA is not exactly like doing sports, this method can certainly help you! How?
Well, one way is to visualise yourself passing. Visualise yourself writing and passing your exam. Visualise your parents, siblings and friends praise you after you clear your exam. Feel it and feel it with joy. Tell yourself I can do this.
This visualisation exercise is different from mere daydreaming. This is more of a visceral event where you try and feel every emotion that comes with the elation of passing and your proud peers. You don’t have to engage in it excessively. Practicing this mental exercise for about 5 minutes day should be enough!
Almost every self-help manual or course talks about meditation. For good reason too. This is a time and tested method of relaxing the mind and building mental toughness. There are many meditation techniques but one of the most popular ones is mindfulness meditation. Here, in this method, you are to sit in a quiet room and focus on your breath as you breathe in and out. Be aware of the present moments. You are an observer of the moments passing by! Note that you are not trying to get rid of thoughts. You are merely noticing them as and when they arise in consciousness while you focus on your breath. A simple but effective method …
Now, there are many apps that will help you meditate. One of the author’s favourites is Headspace. But there are other such apps in the market. Choose one that is right for you and use it well!
Have a mental mechanism in place to stop negative thoughts
Despite everything, negative thoughts may arise. Thoughts like, I’m not smart enough or I don’t feel like studying … thoughts that will paralyse even the most hardworking student. So, it’s a good idea to have a mental trigger to stop these thoughts. For the author, what works well is to imagine flashing red lights in front of him. This helps the author to recalibrate his thoughts and refocus. You should have a similar method that works for you.
Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for any mistakes. Remember that you are a unique person with gifts. You are taking up the course not because it’s easy but because it’s hard. You might stumble … and it’s okay! The trick is to pick yourself up and never give up.