Love them or hate them, tests are here to stay. You will have to take hundreds of tests before your graduate, and for a lot of people, that’s a crippling thought. Tests can bring a copious amount of stress, anxiety, and depression into your life. Whether you’re in high school, getting your undergraduate degree, or your Ph.D., test anxiety can strike at any time. And when it does, it can cause some major damage.
According to Healthline, test anxiety can lead to a number of both physical and emotional symptoms. The symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, stomach pain, rapid heartbeat, headaches, feelings of fear, and stomach pain. Even if you only feel one of these symptoms, your test-taking abilities can be severely handicapped. Fortunately for all of us, there are actionable steps we can take to win the battle over test anxiety.
Most of the time, test anxiety comes from not being prepared to take the test. Going to class, studying, and mentally preparing yourself beforehand can go a long way. But, sometimes that is still not enough.
This piece of advice may sound simple, but an effective way to reduce test day anxiety is to avoid the simple mistakes that bring on unnecessary stress.
- Make sure you sharpen your pencils beforehand. Bring at least 2-3 more pencils just in case.
- If applicable, pack your scantron and workbook the night before the test.
- Get 6-8 hours of sleep before exam day.
- Stay hydrated and eat healthy meals beforehand.
- Monitor your caffeine intake. If you usually drink caffeine while you study, drink caffeine before your test. If you don’t drink caffeine while you study, don’t drink caffeine on exam day. You don’t want to alter your state of mind that you’re usually in while you’re doing work.
Vincent Van Goh, once said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together”. By doing the small things, great things can come to pass.
Relax and Alter Your State Of Mind
According to Medical News Today, “Anxiety disorders occur when a person regularly feels disproportionate levels of distress, worry, or fear over an emotional trigger. Identifying the reason behind a presentation of anxiety can be the key to successful treatment.” Although anxiety attacks can happen at any time, we can recognize the patterns or “triggers” that bring on the unwanted feeling of anxiety.
It’s important to identify what components of the test make us feel anxious. Is it the possibility of failure? Is it the fear of forgetting everything you have studied? If the test is timed, do you feel pressured?
There are a million factors that can make us feel distressed, but it’s important to reverse engineer how our brain works. Recognizing patterns can help you stop anxiety before it even begins.
If you still have a feeling of angst, try implementing the following:
- Relax and take a few deep breaths. Focus on your inhales and exhales. This will help your body unwind and calm down.
- Focus on the present. We can get so caught up in the future that it can negatively affect the here and now.
- Think about something else. Instead of worrying about the test, try thinking about something lighthearted like a current hobby or TV show you’re watching.
It’s easy to not take of yourself when you suffer from feelings of depression or anxiety. In fact, studies have shown that the area of your brain that’s in charge of problem-solving, judgment, and reasoning is negatively affected when you’re depressed or anxious. So, it’s no surprise that self-care often gets neglected.
However, taking care of yourself can easily get you out of a slump. Try to implement these self-care habits into your daily life:
- Eating properly
- Being out in nature
The above recommendations can look different for everyone. Do your research to see what types of habits would be good for you and your current lifestyle. And don’t be afraid to try new things! Stepping outside of your comfort zone can open multiple avenues of self-discovery and enjoyment.
The most important thing for you to know is that you can change. There is hope for anyone suffering from test anxiety or depression. It will require work, but it will ultimately lead you to have a happier and more productive time while you’re in school.
Brandon Jarman is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with his family and the occasional video game.