Dealing with Test Anxiety, Part 1

For many college students, class lectures and assignments are a breeze. But when it comes time to study and take the test (or perhaps a CLEP Test), anxiety derails confidence, causes a number of physical and mental ailments, and lowers test scores. During midterm and the dreaded finals week, test anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways—especially if good grades are on the line.

Here are a few ways to defeat stress, find physical and mental clarity, and achieve the test results you’re looking for when it matters most.

Take control of your body.

Stress doesn’t just cloud your mind—it physically manifests itself in your body in the form of muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, chest pain, increased heart rate, blurred vision, lowered immune system function, and nausea. This only adds to the mental anguish and pre-test anxiety, and makes it incredibly difficult to focus and study effectively.

To reduce your anxiety, you must be able to identify where your body is manifesting stress, take measures to reduce that stress, and send your body physical signals of peace and relaxation.

First, tense and relax sets of muscles a few times, paying close attention to how your body feels during the process. This will help you release some tension in your body, and help you identify what areas of the body are unusually tense. Usually, people manifest tension in the neck, back, and shoulders—areas that are usually relaxed and unwound by a massage or a long, hot shower.

Next, send positive physical affirmations to your body by controlling your breathing and heart rate. When stress levels in the body are elevated, breathing and heart rate become more rapid, which can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain—all of which will exacerbate your stress levels. To send signals of calm and positivity to your body, close your eyes and take deep inhalations and slow exhalations for three to five minutes. This will slow down your heartbeat, deliver oxygen to your brain, and send messages to your body that everything is going to be fine.

Finally, get some exercise to increase circulation and dopamine production in the brain. Going for a jog, lifting weights, or doing yoga will distract your mind from the test ahead, give you a sense of well-being, and help you sleep better. (Most people stressing about tests need all the sleeping help they can get.)

Immerse yourself in a peaceful atmosphere.

Conditioning your study environment is a great way to reduce stress and increase learning permanence and productivity. In a world full of harsh lights and loud noises, it’s important to remove distractions by reducing the amount of visual and aural stimulation in your study space. Turn off bright overhead lights in exchange for warm, soft lights to create a peaceful ambiance in your space, and play some soft background music, white noise, or nature sounds to mute the sounds of the outside world and promote focus and mental clarity.

In the second part of this blog series, we’ll discuss a few more ways to reduce stress and anxiety before your test, and methods of calming yourself during the test!