Testing anxiety is what the psychology world likes to call performance anxiety. Similar to feelings of fear one may experience before heading out on stage, testing anxiety can leave the sufferer drenched in sweat, heart pounding with a thought of…”How the heck do I get out of this situation?” The student or the teacher is equally susceptible to anxiety’s grip. Lucky for all those white-knuckling it through exam time there are a few tricks up my therapy sleeve. We really can save you from those pesky intrusive thoughts that keep you zeroed in on failure rather than success. You ready? Here we go.
Accept the anxiety. Yep, you read that right! Allow the anxiety to exist and just be okay with it. Stress doesn’t have to be all bad. It won’t kill you. In fact, why not harness its powers in a positive way? Let it help you out by using the excess adrenaline to stay hyper focused and proactive. Acknowledge your anxiety. Stay focused on your studies and breathe your way through it slowly and steadily. The anxiety will subside and eventually the test will be over.
Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This sounds somewhat corny and a little too obvious but sometimes the most obvious thing is a sure fire way to a path of success. The more you tell yourself, “I got this,” the more your brain will believe it. Kind of like that old adage, “Fake it ’til you make it.” Negative thoughts will only work to heighten anxiety and lower your self-esteem. Who needs that?
Exercise daily. Nope, I am not trying to sound like your doctor. Just a friend, who happens to be a therapist. And this therapist has access to some significant studies and they all point to what we now know to be true – exercise reduces anxiety significantly. It is better than medicine at calming nerves and not only does it make you feel relaxed; it releases feel-good hormones throughout your body that promote a good night’s sleep and a happy mood. Win-win, if you ask me.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. You know where I am going with this as I repeated myself three times over. Preparation for the exam will always work in your favor. If you know your stuff you are going to sweat test time a whole lot less. Genius, right? If you are still a little shaky when the test finds its way to your desk just breathe through it and head straight for the topics you know. This trick allows you to build confidence in your capabilities as you go while saving more time to focus on the answers that leave you a little more baffled.
Ask for help. If you are struggling with anxiety through exam time ask a trusted teacher or school counselor for help. A teacher wants to see you succeed. When the student succeeds the teachers succeeds! If you are a teacher and you are struggling, seek help from a colleague. Treat your school members as a community; a little community of support. Everyone wants to do well and you can do it together.
Eat for your brain. And the rest of your body. But you get my point. Good nutrition helps focus the brain, calm the nerves and elevate energy. Fast food, processed food, sugar and simple carbohydrates will work against you and I mean this in no uncertain terms. What you put in your mouth affects the manner in which your brain and body functions. Reach for fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and Omega-3 rich foods (Alaskan salmon, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, grass-fed eggs and meats). For more information on brain health and nutrition, scan the rest of my blog for ideas. In fact, I will make it easy for you! Check these out:
Just remember to do the work, accept the anxiety, breathe through it and nurture your brain with daily exercise and a healthy diet. Don’t forgot to tell yourself, “I got this!” Because you do!