For many of us, college was a great time in our lives. The magic time between adolescence and full-adulthood. We had freedom and we were surrounded by peers for easy friendship building. Oh ya, there was classes and exams too. For some, however, the stress of college overrides the fun and makes it a predominantly negative experience. Even for those who have a great time at college, it can also be incredibly stressful, especially during mid-term and final exams.
The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best. If this sounds familiar to you, then the following tips and exercises will help lower your anxiety before the next big exam.
1. Breathe Deeply
When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled, “fight or flight” panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived mortal threats. In this state, our minds only function in basic survival mode. We do not have access to higher level thinking and it can feel like your mind is completely blank.
When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps our brain reset to allow higher level thinking and focus on the task at hand.
2. Change Your Perspective
Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us or make us mess up. The truth is, if you have studied and are prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.
The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So, stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing when you do well, everyone wins!
3. Start Strong
To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state. As your confidence grows, your test anxiety will fade away.
4. Be Realistic
What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m gonna fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”
The best predictor of future success is past performance. So, think about what is really likely to happen, rather than focusing on worst case scenarios.
Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind.
If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment. I would be happy to discuss how therapy can help you manage both situational anxiety and improve overall life satisfaction.