Our Top Strategies for Managing Exam Anxiety
Do you find yourself freezing during exams and struggling to think clearly? Does your heart beat fast, and do you feel like you can’t catch your breath?
Experiencing any of these sensations just before or during exams is a good indication you have exam anxiety. Most people feel a degree of anxiety before a test, but for some it can be debilitating and seriously impact their results.
What Causes Exam Anxiety?
The physical symptoms of anxiety are triggered by what’s known as your ‘fight or flight’ response. When you worry about exams your brain perceives a threat to your physical safety.
In response to this threat, the brain floods your body with adrenaline to prepare it to run away or stay and fight. Being in an exam situation where you can’t work this adrenaline off only makes your anxiety worse.
The best way to avoid triggering this response is to take notice of when your anxiety starts so you can nip it in the bud. Whether your anxiety is intense or just frustrating, our strategies will help you relax and perform at your best.
There are many different types of meditation, and a lot of great resources available online can help you decide which one works best for you. At its simplest, meditation is about quieting the chatter of your ‘monkey mind’ by focusing on your breathing. The endless chatter of your inner voice causes anxiety, which is why learning to turn down its volume is such a powerful tool.
One of the best methods for managing anxiety is mindfulness training. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment. Rather than trying to turn down your inner voice, you simply need to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts without trying to change them. When you learn to accept your anxiety and just sit with it, the emotion loses much of its power.
Visualisation is another form of meditation which you can use to reduce anxiety. Sit in a quiet place and imagine yourself entering the exam room calmly. Savour the feeling of relaxation and competence as you sit at your desk and complete the exam. Leave the room with a smile on your face, knowing you’ve done well. The idea behind visualisation is that by mentally practicing a situation you can help yourself relax in real life. The reason this strategy works is because your neurons can’t tell the difference between real-life and imagination.
The things you tell yourself have a big impact on how you feel. If your self-talk is negative and critical, it’s going to contribute to harmful emotions such as anxiety and depression. Take notice of the sort of things you tell yourself daily, particularly in the lead up to exams. Replace every negative comment with a positive one. For example, change “I’m going to mess up this exam like I always do,” to “I’m going to try my hardest and get the best result for me.” You’ll be surprised what a difference positive self-talk can make.
The practice of yoga was invented in India over 5000 years ago, and the reason it’s still popular today is because it works. This practice not only helps release tension through stretching and movement, but it also calms and focuses the mind. Yoga can give you a sense of wellbeing and inner peace that will help you tackle your exams with confidence. There are many excellent videos on Youtube for beginners to get you started.
These strategies will help ease exam anxiety so you can reach your potential.