Almost everyone feels nervous before an exam – it’s normal.
- “Butterflies” in the stomach
- “Will I be able to answer the questions?”
- “Have I done enough preparation?”
- Can some exam anxiety be helpful?
A certain amount of exam anxiety keeps us energized, motivated, alert, and focused. But too much anxiety can interfere with exam performance by blocking our recall or thinking abilities, by fostering negative frames of mind, or even by promoting panic reactions. Effective steps of overcoming exam anxiety are important.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction – apprehension, tension, or uneasiness – to any perceived threat or anticipation of danger. If we believe something important to us is being threatened, and we overestimate the threat, underestimate our ability to cope with it, or underestimate the resources we have available to cope with it, then we’ll feel anxious.
Exam anxiety often involves apprehensions of performing at levels below those at which we’d like to perform, or even apprehensions of failure. This type of anxiety may be a product of our underestimating our abilities to perform or of the resources we have available to help us to perform to our desired levels on exams. Conversely, exam anxiety may be a natural reaction to insufficient exam preparation. Effective steps of overcoming exam anxiety are important.
What are some things that can reduce exam anxiety?
There are a number of things you can do to help reduce exam anxiety and turn those uncomfortable and unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviours around.
The body and the mind are interconnected, as a result, becoming relaxed physically helps us to relax mentally, and becoming relaxed mentally helps us to relax physically.
The following physical and mental relaxation methods can help ease exam anxiety since it’s very hard for the body or mind to carry on with the anxiety at the same time the body or mind is becoming relaxed.
Concentrate on Your Breathing
Anxiety can lead to shallow, fast, or irregular breathing. Likewise, shallow, quick, or irregular breathing can increase the physical sensations of anxiety. Those breathing patterns can create an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body and brain, heightening physical indicators often associated with anxiety and, in turn, increasing our cognitive interpretations that what we are experiencing is due to anxiety.
This one of the effective steps of overcoming the exam anxiety.
Controlled Breathing Strategies
Practice this method of breathing for at least 4 minutes because that’s roughly how long it takes to restore the optimal balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Breathe in slowly and deeply to a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 2, and breathe out for a count of 8.
- With one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your stomach; the hand on your stomach should move in and out as you breathe, the hand on your chest should remain stationary.
- Breathe either through your mouth or nose; whichever is more comfortable.
- Breathe gently, slowly, and deeply and avoid taking big gulps of air.
- Practice this method of controlled breathing a few times each day in situations in which you feel anxious
Relax Your Muscles
Tense muscles can be a result of anxiety as well as a cause of anxiety. Although most people carry muscle tension in different areas of their bodies, most people report increased levels of relaxation and decreased levels of physical tension and anxiety on completing the progressive muscle relaxation exercise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Strategies
- Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique where the body’s major muscle groups are alternately tensed and relaxed
- The process can proceed from head to feet or feet to head
- Tense and relax the muscles in the forehead, eyes, jaw, neck, shoulders, upper back, biceps, forearms, hands, abdomen, groin, hips, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet.
- Tense the first muscle group for 5 seconds and then relax for 10-15 seconds; repeat, and do the same for the next muscle group until all muscle groups have been tensed and relaxed
Relax Through Visualization
Visualization (or imagery) methods are techniques for learning to relax and reduce anxiety. Imagery involves actively visualizing scenes that are tranquil and relaxing for you.
- The scenes you imagine can be scenes that may or may not exist. The important thing is that they are tranquil and relaxing for you
- The specific scene is less important than how the image makes you feel
- The more senses you incorporate in your image, the more relaxing the visualization is likely to be as we teach at our Institution.
- By imagining smells, sounds, tastes, and tactile sensations that go along with your image, you will increase your ability to relax
- ie. – If you imagine yourself walking along a tree-lined mountain path, notice the bird songs, the light through the trees, the fragrance and colour of the leaves, and the feel of the breeze on your skin.
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