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Test Day Anxiety

If you've ever felt the unpleasant jitters in your stomach as you walk into class on test day, or the heart drop as you read the first question, you might be experiencing a little testing anxiety. You aren't alone in this. When tests come up they are often emphasized as holding some form of a major impact over you, whether it be your grade, your career advancement, or even social consequences at home or with friends. No wonder we get nervous! Luckily, there are some ways you can try to quell these unpleasant feelings and do your best to conquer your test.

So what can you do to feel less anxious and more confident? Well, as the saying goes 'practice make perfect'... or at least improved. This isn't an answer many people like to hear but think about it.

Here's a test: if someone asked you what the powerhouse of the cell was, you would say... the mitochondria of course! I'm willing to bet the answer would come almost automatically. You probably felt pretty proud and confident to have come up with the answer so quickly. This is because this particular piece of information (strangely enough) was drilled into our minds through practice and repetition (not a one night cram session). Other tests aren't very different! The more you are able to practice understanding and applying information, the easier it will be to recall in the future- thus, boosting your confidence!

Stomach aches, sweaty palms, the clock is ticking...

Let's say that you've studied for days, weeks, even months and are still feeling that jittery feeling in your gut as you walk into the testing room. Maybe you can feel your heart pounding, making it harder to concentrate on the words in front of you.

Physical symptoms of nerves can be hard to ignore, but there are ways to soothe them to a more manageable level.

If you think of a small animal faced with something frightening, you know that they go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Our goal is to get out of fleeing or freezing, and dive headfirst into our test. Slowing and regulating our breathing can be a helpful way to do this. I want you to breathe in for 4 slow seconds, hold it for 4, breathe out for 4, hold it, and repeat. Do it however many times you need until you notice your body relaxing. ( I wouldn't offer something I haven't tried, and this worked wonders when I had to give a surprise speech at a wedding!) Make sure to take it slow.

Let's also think about what it is we are thinking about. That clock on the wall may be noisy, but does that really mean you don't have any time? You may feel shaky, but that doesn't necessarily mean you didn't study or aren't prepared. Often, it is so easy to think negative thoughts when we are already feeling nervous, but our thoughts aren't always the best truth tellers.

This time, I challenge you with being your own best friend and to check your negative thoughts at the door!

This can look like checking the facts- is that thought true? What's the evidence for it or against it?

This can also just look like speaking positive thoughts just as much, or more, than your negative ones. For example, you may be nervous now, but you've passed your tests before! Who's to say you can't do it again? -OR- We are far too determined to let one setback keep us from our goals, so let's give it our best.

Think about what has helped you in the past to overcome your nerves, and see what you can add to it. If you find that you are needing extra help, it can be helpful to speak with a therapist. Each of our therapists at Houston Therapy specializes in treating anxiety, and we offer psychological and neuropsychological evaluations to help with accommodations.

Feel free to reach out to our front desk to see how we can help you.

Brianna Dennis-McCrory

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