It’s that time of the year again. Final exams, standardized state tests, SAT’s, ACT’s, tests, quizzes, projects etc. Just hearing these terms can bring up a feeling of anxiousness that is hard to get rid of. These kinds of evaluations are an inevitable part of the educational process that most people don’t enjoy. Even those students who don’t typically worry about tests and exams, can experience some level of stress at this time of the year.
Test anxiety occurs for a number of reasons, including the fear of failure or of being evaluated. It is different than not doing well because you’re not prepared or haven’t studied well enough. It happens even when the person has studied and knows the material very well.
Although it usually begins as worried thoughts about the test (Am I smart enough? What if I fail? What happens if my scores aren’t good enough for me to get into college?) the worry can quickly turn into a physical response. Test anxiety affects the body and the mind. The reason for this is that when we have stressful thoughts, it causes our body to release adrenaline, which is a necessary hormone, if we are facing a dangerous situation. The problem arises when in fact, there is no actual life and death danger that would use that rush of adrenaline to “fight or flight” from danger. We are left with this over abundance of adrenaline that our body doesn’t have a way of getting rid of. This results in all those physical symptoms of anxiety: sweaty hands, intestinal discomfort, racing heart, difficulty breathing, shaking, dizziness, nausea, tingling sensations, ringing ears, etc.
Here are some specific ways that you can lessen test anxiety and help avoid those physical reactions to the stress you’re experiencing:
Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night but especially leading up to test day. Eat healthy foods, avoiding caffeine and sugar.
Stay physically active. This really helps keep the stress hormones low.
Study and get prepared; then walk in with confidence that you’ll do your best. Don’t let your worried thoughts take over. Think only positive thoughts about a positive outcome.
Be attentive to the directions and the clock, but not to anything else going on around you. This is the time to get in your “zone” and do what you came to do.
If you notice worried thoughts creeping in, or any physical signs of stress, remember to take slow, deep breathes. This will help the adrenaline slow down and your stressful feelings should subside.
Most students experience some level of test anxiety leading up to an important exam. The strategies listed above are a few examples of what you can do to lower your stress so you’ll perform your best. If you believe that you need more help in addressing the test anxiety that you’re feeling, please contact Boca Behavioral Health at 561-961-9077. You can speak with an experienced mental health professional who will teach you ways to overcome your anxiety and help you get the grades you deserve!