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How to Deal with Anxiety During Exams

“When thinking about your life, remember that no amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.”

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Today we will try to understand a few things like what is anxiety, what causes anxiety, how to detect anxiety and how to deal with anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. Test anxiety is a form of social anxiety. In a nutshell, it is excessive fear of being judged, rejected or negatively reviewed during a performance or social situation. 

There could be different occasions when a person feels anxious, like feeling uncomfortable in public, first day of school, job interview, any sudden change etc. However, in this article we will talk about test/assessment anxiety, not many students in the school atmosphere are spared from stress of exam seasons. Studies have shown that anywhere between 55–70% of the students deal with moderate to high levels of test anxiety.

Top 10 Symptoms of Test Anxiety: 

  1. Concerns days before the exam is to take place
  2. Freezing during tests
  3. Worried about forgetting information while studying
  4. Fear of failure when taking exams
  5. Difficulty concentrating while studying 
  6. Avoiding studying for tests until the last minute
  7. Performing well in the personal test but failing to do well in the final test
  8. Lacking confidence
  9. Feeling like not prepared enough 
  10. Physical symptoms such as dry mouth, sweating, nausea, etc

Tips to Reduce Test Anxiety

Prepare Well in Advance

Lack of preparation is the most commonly cited reason for test anxiety. To deal with this, devise a customized study schedule that gets you working long before your exams start. Procrastination has no cure and you will have to decide for yourself that enough of pushing your work away, take it up, make a plan that suits you well (take help of your parents and teachers), for some it could be 45 minutes of studying and 10 minutes of break and for someone else it could be 30 minutes of studying and 15 minutes of break. 

Develop a Good Sleeping Pattern

This is one of the best ways to stay on top of stress. Develop a routine where you get sufficient sleep. This will help your brain to function at its optimum state. You may argue that sleep is not connected to stress, but there is research that proves otherwise.

Keep caffeine and sugar at similar levels during pre-exams and during the exams period

It is ok to have your regular cup of tea or coffee. It is observed that students drink a lot of tea or coffee to stay up all night to study and keep fatigue away. Our bodies get used to certain chemical levels. If you suddenly decrease it, you may suffer withdrawal. In contrast, if you suddenly increase it, you might find it difficult to focus. 

Practice Breathing Techniques

Again here, you may argue how breathing can help someone control stress levels, but it is a proven fact. There are no magic pills, which you pop and become an expert in breathing in a way that helps you to stay calm. However, there is a technique called ‘star breathing’ that you can easily find on the internet. Search and start practicing. Only with practice will you be able to apply them as soon as you are stressed. 

Avoid studying the night before. If necessary, only do the minimum amount, or a brief review of the main concepts and themes. Try to relax and take a good night’s sleep. 

Expect To Do Your Best

Now this is very important and helpful, your thoughts affect your feelings and how anxious you are. If you keep repeating that you think you’re going to fail, it will undermine your confidence and faith in yourself. Also, it will make it difficult for you to study and remember what you’re doing, since your thinking is consumed by ‘how bad the exam is going to be’. On the contrary, if you stay positive and believe in yourself, your mind will be free to focus on your work and you are likely to do better as you think you will succeed.

Grounding Technique.

Find five things you can see, four things that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is called Grounding and it can help you when you feel like you have lost control of your surroundings. Practice this every time you feel like you are getting a panic attack or an anxiety attack.

Do Things That Makes You Happy

Make and keep a list of 10 things to do when you are stressed, it can include having an ice cream, taking a nap, going for a walk, watching a movie or talking to your friends. Be mindful of what you are choosing every time you are stressed. You cannot keep eating ice cream every time or watching movies all the time.

Affirmations

Just like good sleep, good nutrition and good breathing, affirmations can also help in a big way, only if practiced wisely. Make a customized list of affirmations, such as “I am doing my best”, “I accept myself”, “I love my studies”.

Take Help

An emotion or a feeling prolonged too much becomes a trait and requires professional help. Don’t feel shy or embarrassed to ask for help. It is possible that your family members or friends can help you resolve and/or encourage you to consult a professional counsellor or a psychiatrist.

Shamsha Dhamani