Overcoming Test Anxiety
Test anxiety is essentially an anxious or overwhelming feeling of not being able to perform up to your abilities on a test. Symptoms are both physical and psychological. They can include, but are not limited to: worrisome thoughts, racing heart, sweating, migraines and rapid breathing.
The key to dealing with test anxiety is to develop coping skills before or, at the very least, as the symptoms occur.
- Get adequate sleep. It will help you work more efficiently, learn and retain information better, and do better on your exams. (All-nighters are a bad idea for your health AND your grades!)
- Try out relaxation exercises or a guided meditation.
- Keep moving! Don't cut out your exercise time during finals period. The gym is a great place for a study break (leave your readings and flash cards at home to give your mind a rest!) or go for a run or take a walk outside. Don't want to leave your dorm? Go up and down the stairs a few times, have a dance party with your roommate, or do yoga.
- Keep laughing. Laughter can reduce stress and improve your mood, so watch, read, or listen to something funny as a study break!
- Watch your caffeine intake. It will stay in your system longer than you think and can keep you from falling asleep when you need to. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, and exercise can keep you energized without caffeine!
- Let your eyes rest. Give your eyes periodic breaks while you're studying. Look out the window at something far away and focus on it for 15 seconds before returning to your computer screen or textbook.
- Eat healthy foods. Protein-rich foods can help you sustain your energy and your focus. Sugary foods can give you an immediate energy rush, but you'll crash later. Leave the library to get some fresh air and a balanced meal instead of ordering in or overdoing it on baked goods.
- Take a walk outside, especially in nature. It will clear your head, get you moving, and can help improve your memory!
- Eat breakfast before your morning exams!
- Keep everything in perspective: they're just exams. You're really smart, and you can handle them!
Are you stressed out?
What is stress?
- Stress is an emotional/bodily reaction to physical, psychological or emotional demands.
- Stress is a fact of life.
- Managed stress can become useful and healthy (viewing events as challenges).
- Unmanaged stress can become distressful and unhealthy (viewing events as threats).
What are some of the causes of stress?
- Expectations we place on ourselves
- Expectations of others
- Our physical environment - noise, movement, weather, season changes
- Our internal environment - academic pressure, frustration, not enough time, decisions, social life
What are some symptoms of unmanaged stress?
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure; feeling tense, irritable, fatigued, or depressed
- Lack of interest and ability to concentrate, apathy
- Avoidance behaviors: abuse of drugs, alcohol, tobacco
What are ways to manage stress effectively?
- Add balance to life; don't overdo studies or play.
- Know and accept what kind of person you are: strengths and weaknesses.
- Get a thorough physical exam.
- Take "time outs", especially during study.
- Expand your support network, reinforce friendships.
- Exercise regularly.
- Watch your breathing.
- Walk loosely and walk more.
- Learn and practice relaxation skills.
- Study each subject regularly for moderate periods of time.
- Discuss problems with friends, family, professor or counselor.
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