It’s that time of the year again. Finals season!
(Yes, I just heard that scream echoing through cyberspace. Or perhaps it was a heavy sigh or mournful growl.)
No matter if you’re a high school or college student, final exams are bound to make you just a little bit nervous… or a lot!
And you’re not alone. Test anxiety is fairly common. But even if you don’t suffer from full-blown anxiety attacks when the dreaded day(s) come along, nervousness can still throw you off-track and scramble your mind and focus.
What can you do? Or can you even do anything?
Of course, you can!
6 Down-to-Earth Tips for Reducing Test Anxiety
While there’s no trick to magically obliterate your test anxiety, here are some tips to at least lower it.
1. Pump up your confidence
This isn’t about being vain or getting a big head, it’s about building belief in yourself by reflecting on your past achievements. It’s so easy for our minds to just eject everything positive we’ve accomplished before when anxiety hits. So the counteragent for hitting that panic button has to be just as ingrained.
One of the simplest negation tactics you can implement is positive self-talk. That means bringing up all those past achievements to build self-belief. This could be in the form of a personalized mantra or phrase that encapsulates what you are capable of based on your previous successes.
As you get closer to the exam days, repeat this phrase over and over to yourself to drown out negative thoughts and promote a positive attitude. It’ll also serve you well as a fallback when your thinking and emotions want to take a downturn in the middle of the exam.
2. Create a study system
The good thing about school exams is that the day of the test is usually known well in advance. That gives you an advantage. You can prepare ahead of time and create a plan for studying.
Approach it very systematically. Look at how many days you have, mark on your calendar what information you’ll cover at what time, and stick to the plan. Be sure you know what information will be covered in the exam, what kinds of questions need to be answered, and what materials you need to study.
Also, be sure you fixate well in your mind the importance of the test and identify the study methods that work best for you. And finally, nix the distractions (that means the cell phone needs to stay off!).
3. Plan ahead for the unexpected
Of course, we can’t assume just because we have a plan that everything will go exactly as we’ve got it laid out. So, being prepared for the unexpected and leaving nothing to chance is paramount.
By reducing obstacles—such as too many obligations, appointments, or responsibilities—you can reduce a lot of stress before the test day ever gets here. Depending on the importance of the exam, maybe someone in your family can help you out with household tasks.
And when the day has arrived, be sure you have several alarms set to wake you up, eat a proper meal, and get to the test location early. That includes having a plan B in case there are problems on the road.
4. Prep your body
Speaking about proper nutrition—it’s not just important on the day of the exam. Our bodies and minds are connected. When we feel physically fit, our minds are typically sharp as well.
So your body needs to be used to a routine of good self-care. That not only includes eating but also exercising. Eating well means taking in less sugar and more healthy choices of protein and carbs. And regular exercising (walking, swimming, running, yoga, weight training) releases feel-good chemicals that lower stress.
5. Don’t forget your Zzzzs
Another important component of physical fitness, and thus, an optimal test-taking mindset is getting sufficient and restful sleep. Again, that doesn’t just mean being well-rested the night before the test. It’s a daily habit.
If you don’t already have a good sleep/wake routine, start one at least two weeks out from the test date. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Turn off the technology when you get ready for bed—cell phones, computers, tablets, TV. It will make for a much more relaxing sleep. And getting plenty of quality Zs is a powerful way to protect yourself from anxiety and stress.
6. Get into and keep a chill mode
We’re not talking about being lax when it comes to studying and preparation; we’re talking about being relaxed, tranquil, at ease. And that, like other things mentioned above, doesn’t come just from a few breathing and muscle relaxing exercises the night before the exam.
It’s a mindset you need to regularly get into, until it becomes a habit. To build up your chill mode, make sure you don’t overtax yourself and regularly take breaks during your test preparation. Engage in relaxing, creative activities, such as listening to music, walking in nature, taking a power nap, or immerse yourself in some artistic expression you enjoy.
For the test day, to help you refocus and calm down if anxiety surges, practice a simple three-minute breathing technique. Take two deep breaths and silently note three things that you hear, feel, see, taste, or smell. Then, take two more deep breaths. If you got this exercise down pat, it’s easy to use even in the middle of the exam.
If you would like more information on how to deal with test anxiety, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help you build your toolbox to tackle your exam jitters.