How to Beat Test Anxiety Without Using Drugs 46

How to Beat Test Anxiety Without Using Drugs - Let's Reach Success

This is a guest post by Bo Stunkel, the Founder of TurboDog Learning, a test-prep business specializing in helping students beat test anxiety with mind-hacks and exercises backed by science.

Taking tests is hard and stressful, and the older you get the more difficult they become. To adjust for the difficulty of college exams, standardized tests, and professional licensing exams, there are tons of resources that you can use to prepare yourself.

There are test prep guides, practice tests, practice essays, study guides, flashcards, private tutoring, and blogs like this one. It seems that there is such an abundance of information out in the world that everybody should be passing every test with flying colors if they only put in the work.

But what happens to so many test takers is that they do all of the preparation and studying they believe they can, and then show up to the actual test and freeze up!

Whether it’s sweaty or shaky hands, a thumping heartbeat, shallow breathing, or a racing mind, most students are extremely prepared for taking on challenging subject matter, but are extremely underprepared to deal with the physical symptoms of test anxiety.

Taking a practice test in your dorm room, the library, or a familiar classroom is not the same as showing up to take a test and having one shot to get the highest score possible. During the real test, the pressure is on and it’s up to you to see if you can perform.

Many students neglect to realize that test taking is not only an intellectual experience, but also a physical one. As a result, many students think that all they have to do is follow a study guide or take as many practice tests as they can and they will automatically ace their exam.

Unfortunately, this is not true. In any professional arena, from sports to surgery to sales, the best of the best are generally the people who can rise to the moment and get results even when they are under pressure. The same logic applies to taking an important exam.

Related: How to Develop Your Study Skills

Below you’ll find some good tips on how you can rise to the occasion, take on test anxiety head on, and perform at your best.

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1. Exercise Regularly.

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Everybody experiences test anxiety in some form, and it’s completely normal.

Thousands of years ago when humans were hunting woolly mammoths and other dangerous animals, our bodies triggered a “fight-or-flight” response that floods our body with cortisol, adrenaline, and other energizing hormones that let us know that something important is happening. This gave us the energy, awareness, and focus we needed to survive in dangerous situations.

Nowadays there aren’t many woolly mammoths walking around, and most of us don’t have to hunt for our own food. As a result, our bodies adapt and trigger the fight or flight response during other tasks like taking an important exam. Test anxiety is just a normal part of our biology.

But if test anxiety is something that really stops you in your tracks and hinders your testing performance, you probably have a low threshold for stress. And this is why it’s so uncomfortable and distracting to experience the physical symptoms of test anxiety during an exam.

The answer? Training your response to stress. The best and most direct way to do this is by exercising.

Exercising raises your heart rate and floods your body with the same hormones that are present during the triggering of a fight-or-flight response.

When you exercise regularly, you train your body to handle higher levels of stress, and even enjoy it. It may not be easy, but it’s definitely one of the best ways to train yourself to handle higher levels of stress.

Eventually, the test anxiety you feel during an important exam is something that energizes and focuses your mind instead of hindering your performance.

2. Breathe Properly.

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Most of us don’t breathe properly and use only around 50% of our full lung capacity. This leaves us at a severe disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the energetic force of a stress response.

Imagine your heart pumping like crazy but your lungs aren’t able to handle the increased oxygen intake. Many times this leads to the lungs overworking themselves and overcompensating, which can easily lead to hyperventilation and panic. Not fun in the middle of a test.

There are two very easy ways to fix your breathing and improve your ability to use your lungs to help you harness your fight-or-flight response:

  1. Nose breathing.

It may sound too easy, but breathing through the nose actually makes a huge difference in our ability to use our lungs at their full capacity.

Nose breathing is a crucial part of our Nitric Oxide intake (the same “laughing gas” that your dentist gives you, but in a much smaller and naturally produced dosage) which lowers the heart rate and blood pressure as a result of blood vessel dilation.

Nose breathing also delivers air to the bottom part of the lungs more effectively than mouth breathing. The bottom of the lungs is where our Parasympathetic Nerve Receptors lie, which activate the “rest-and-digest” response when activated, flooding our bodies with relaxing hormones. In this way, nose breathing is a way to directly access relaxation.

  1. Belly Breathing.

Also very simple, but will take a little practice to do effectively, belly breathing exercises the diaphragm.

When we breathe using the diaphragm instead of high up in our chest, we give the muscles in our head, neck, and shoulders a chance to relax. This is where the majority of anxiety-related tension lies.

Belly breathing also gives the heart and other major internal organs a gentle massage, allowing them to open up instead of being constricted by the ribcage.

Related: 7 Natural Stress Relievers

3. Preparing for Test Anxiety.

In terms of integrating these exercises into your existing test-prep routine, there are 2 recommended courses of action.

First, begin a pre-test routine where you do nose breathing, belly breathing, or both for 5 minutes before beginning a test. This gives you a head start on test anxiety and begins the relaxation process BEFORE the fight-or-flight response kicks in.

Second, begin a pre-study routine. Anytime you are about to begin a study session for an important exam, do 5 minutes of these exercises.

Over time this will condition your body to trigger a relaxation response before you begin anything test related, and will carry over to a testing environment when the pressure is on.

Just like exercising trains your ability to handle stress, doing these exercises regularly will train your ability to relax on command.

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How to Stay Focused When Studying: 5 Tips to Keep You From Getting Distracted 4

How to Stay Focused When Studying: 5 Tips to Keep You From Getting Distracted

All people have been interested in studying at one moment in their lives. There are different goals set for diverse learners and each of them requires serious learning at one point in time.

Successful learners are those with full concentration during their studies as this helps them in remembering what was learned and apply it in the undertaken tests. However, irrespective of the reasons as to why people study, most of the times one would have his mind invaded by different thoughts distracting his concentration.

It is also possible to have one diverted by noises and stories made by one’s roommates, children, and neighbors among others.

With these intrusions, an individual would lose focus and this is what is required to be successful in what one was reading. It is therefore important to identify possible issues that can lead to distraction in order to come up with the most appropriate ways of remaining focused. Here are some tips:

1. Pick the right time and place when reading.

This helps in getting rid of the clear distractions.

For instance, a person would not easily focus if he chooses to study in the presence of friends who are engaged in other activities. Similarly, one would not read well if with music, television, phone, or computer on.

Once the phone vibrates or rings, an individual would be tempted to answer and this would divert his attention.

In understanding how to stay focused, it is recommended that a reader has conducive environment bearing in mind that different learners would stay alert at different circumstances.

This is an indication that no single environment fits all types of students. The right time would also involve studying at the moment when a learner feels comfortable with the schedule such as in the evening or very early in the morning.

The place chosen should not be the classroom or bedroom. But rather a quiet and nice place with a relaxed sitting position such as the library or the office.

2. Take frequent breaks.

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In addition, tips for students indicate that instead of succumbing to distraction, a pupil has to take short breaks.

When engaged in 45-minutes of learning, the student should take breaks of between ten and twenty minutes. Taking longer of breaks of over 20 minutes are dangerous for they might lead to forgetting what one was initially studying.

By planning breaks with an alarm, you not miss them or accidentally take longer ones.

Breaks are considered very crucial because they help the brain to recharge after processing the earlier acquired information. Breaks involving walking around should also be taken as an opportunity to improve recalling memory and test scores.

Breaking in between reading is, therefore, a good way of ensuring that a reader does not overburden his brain/mind with information that would not be processed. Taking pauses in between the reading session refreshes the brain and makes it possible to read for long and wide volumes.

3. Staying focused while reading is also linked with staying motivated.

As stated on EssayZoo, there are different forms of distractions for varied learners and this can be addressed by understanding the reason behind one’s studying.

This is done by taking a test or exam as something meant to challenge the reader’s learning. Since a person’s learning would eventually be rated, the process should start by setting a goal.

Even though the set goal should not be unrealistic, it should be challenging so that the learner can perform better than he has been found in the past tests or maybe better than people expect.

Once an individual is able to surprise others based on their expectations, he would feel motivated to continue studying.

Additionally, learning should be motivated with a reward, which acts as a form of self-control by ensuring that a student is compensated for hard work, studying well, being prepared, and performing well in an exam.

Encouragement should also be done by understanding what learning is important, which is different for diverse readers but all meant to enhance attentiveness to achieve personal goals.

4. Getting enough sleep during studying is a vital way of improving concentration.

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Even though many of the times pupils learn under pressure especially when exams are near, this does not mean an individual should read without sleep.

Just like taking breaks during a day of reading, sufficient sleep refreshes the brain and makes it ready to be fed with and process acquired information.

Learning is successful if one can remember and apply the learned information during a test. This is possible if a person is able to actively concentrate during the planned hours of studying.

According to tips for students, studying for long hours without break or sleep is on strenuous and does not bear the expected results.

Dedicating at least 6-8 hours of sleep ensures that a person wakes up fresh, alert, ready, and relaxed for the day’s scheduled learning activities.

Once ready to learn, a student would be organized and in an ordered place with only the reading materials a person requires, aware of the number of hours to spend on a topic, and the number of breaks he will take including their times.

5. Stay calm to concentrate.

Lastly, remaining focused when learning can be done by practicing concentration.

Once a student has everything he needs on the table, he should not postpone the learning exercise. It is advisable that a pupil is aware of the most crucial information to study first before proceeding to the rest. This is to ensure that one is guided by key concepts that would make the learning enjoyable and encouraging.

Also, practice concentration by not panicking, minimize computer and phone use, don’t listen to music unless it aids in studying, and remaining on topic.

It is notable that by panicking, one would make mistakes.

So make sure you remain calm, take deep breaths, and convince yourself that you read, understand, and pass the exams.

Further, a student should turn the computer, Internet, and the cell phone off to ensure maximum concentration. This is to avoid responding to text messages or searching via the Internet things that are not related to the topic of study.

It is arguable that listening to music when learning acts as a distraction because the learner is provided with additional information to process thus interfering with the real intention of the learning process.

In order to stay on-topic, you shouldn’t explore different subjects at the same time more so when studying boring, complex, and unexciting topics.

Studying would thus be effective if a person remains focused in order to achieve the set goals. Nobody enrolls for a course or learning institution without a goal. This would be achieved if concentration is always at its maximum.

While there are major ways of enhancing attentiveness, the discussed ones in this essay are picking the right time and place, instead of succumbing to distraction, taking short breaks, staying motivated, getting enough sleep, and practicing concentration.

The aim is to ensure that a learner understands the importance of learning and is committed to achieving his intentions.