Oh my god, I have so much to do, Arun looks at the books on his table. He’s 13, tall and sturdy and surely knows everything. Yet, there’s a younger child in his mind, easily distracted, happy to run as far from the table as possible. He decides, this is a good time to have a glass of water.
He goes to the kitchen, his mother watches as he opens the frigde door, takes out the water, decides it is too cold, adds a little warm water until the glass in his hand holds absolutely the right temperature. He looks out of the window and starts a minor dissertation on a lizard that is sunning itself.
And mothers, well, they see through these things, when it is time to study, the legs want to run, the hands want to paint, the mouth wants to eat or drink or just talk and the mind, it wants to wander.
What’s the stress about?
Arun is stressed and distracted. The Physics test is two days away, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to care.
It doesn’t really matter how old Arun is. If his reaction to the table and books is one of wanting to run away, it’s going to be the same whether he is five or twenty. His connection with work is affected. Unnecessary emotions come into the fray and pull him away.
Look at stress as you would look at boiling water. If you put a lid on boiling water, the water continues to boil. In fact, the pressure of the steam is enough to move the lid. The only way to remove the stress is to switch off the source of heat.
What should Arun’s mother do? Send her distracted kid back to work, maybe? Get fed up and shout, possibly? Unfortunately, that isn’t effective. She smiles to herself as she thinks back to this article she read recently and decides to try out a new method.
Arun’s mother watches as he takes the water and asks, ‘How would you eat the world’s largest dinosaur?’ He blinks. ‘I don’t know.’
She smiles, ‘Bit by bit.’
Arun laughs out loud.
Humour works well as a means to relieve runaway instincts. It also momentarily frees the mind of the immediate.
She laughs while extending her hand to stroke Arun’s head. The reassurance works to relieve Arun of his mental state, and he is amenable to a conversation. ‘Mummy, there’s just too much to do! I can’t do all of it. Yes, I know you said bit by bit but it doesn’t work like that. There’s really so much…’
That’s true, it doesn’t matter what grade Arun is at, the principles of study are much the same. First, is the introduction to the subject, a preliminary reading. Then there’s the actual task of studying, understanding concepts, using visual or aural tools, making connections and revising.
Practise takes time, of course there’s work… and feels like a lot.
IT’S JUST WORK
You can get stressed by things beyond your control, for instance if the road caves in underfoot, or a tsunami arises within inches of us or maybe a 10-foot bear turned up behind you, that would be something to get stressed about. But the work of studying, that isn’t something you should get stressed about any more than you should about, say, breathing or playing. Everything we do in our waking moments is work. Whether we are adding information to ourselves or breathing, it is all real work.
Oh, okay, Arun sits listlessly. His face and body reflecting an almost compete rejection of his mother’s words.
LET’S PLAN THIS TOGETHER
Well, yes, of course, planning is fun. Arun likes it the most, in fact, he wants to set up a colourful time table, with differently coloured stripes. In the past two weeks, he has made three new colourful time-tables that have since migrated to the back corner of the drawer. Nobody’s fooled, least of all his mother. Enough time-table making, she decides.
Besides, she believes in eating full dinosaurs, bit by bit. ‘Here, let’s take this Physics chapter. I’m putting a timer for twenty minutes, let us see if you can complete reading two pages, without getting distracted’, she says.
She gets up to finish some of her own work. When she is back, Arun has completed two pages, memorised and written three definitions and has moved into ‘study mode’. Mother quietly switches off the timer.
Then, slowly, his leg twitches, he looks up. Stupid timer doesn’t work or what? It’s been half an hour! So much time! And he didnt even get distracted !
PLAN SHORT BREAKS
Arun loves to do certain things, Lego toy building, cycling, sketching, colouring and football.
Now that the overwhelming half hour is over, Arun wanders back to his mother’s room. Instead of nagging him or advising him, she has donned a new hat. The ‘What are you making for me with your lego?’ hat.
Since Ganesh Chaturthi is a few days away, Arun wants to make a mandap. He is going to be priest and idol and eater of prasad. He has so many roles to play, it promises to be a busy day. Some negotiations are in order.
His mother agrees, ‘Fine, you be the idol for ten minutes, just sit still in whatever pose you want. Then return to Physics, finish the chapter.’
Ten minutes of sitting with hands in mudra proves a little boring, but Arun wades through the effort. The return to finishing the chapter is a lot less difficult after sitting still.
Yes, little by little, by day’s end, the chapter gets done. That’s not all, an hour’s Math practise and English homework, and a game of football have been accomplished. The Lego mandap will have to wait another day.
– Contributed by aspiring author, Shobna S. Iyer