High School and College can be full of excitement and adventure. However, the young adult years can also be incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more anxious you may feel. At some point, anxiety becomes so strong that it’s hard to do your best. In fact, if your anxiety is too strong you may do poorly on a test even when you know the material.
But…what can you do about test anxiety?
If you struggle with test anxiety, there are things you can do. Here are a few specific things you can try before or during a big exam (or even small quiz):
Take a few breaths
When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.
When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.
Use Positive Self Talk
When you are anxious, your brain starts telling you all kinds of negative things. It’s easy to convince yourself that you are bound to fail the exam. You may even begin to overthink things and think of tests as something designed specifically to trick you. However, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass their course, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well. When you notice negative thoughts popping into your head, try to change your thoughts to be more realistic.
Start with the Easier Questions
Most exams have some questions that are easier than others. Since you are generally most anxious (and therefore have the most difficulty thinking of answers) at the beginning of the test, start by scanning it to find those questions you are 100% sure about. Answer those questions you are most confident about first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.
Don’t Let Extreme Thoughts Get the Best of You: 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.”
This likely won’t happen so don’t make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.
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. Exercise is a very powerful way to improve your mood and help you perform at your best!
Anxiety Treatment in Mid Missouri
Are you looking for some extra help handling the stressors of academic life? Aspire Counseling is a Columbia, MO counseling clinic. Anxiety counseling is one of our primary specialties. Some of our anxiety therapists even specialize in helping college students with everything from mild general anxiety to full on panic attacks. Contact Aspire Counseling today to see which of our therapists might be the best fit and set up a free consultation appointment.