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From Stress to Success: Tips for Tackling Test Anxiety

With final exam season approaching, many students find themselves grappling with test anxiety. Test anxiety is a common experience that affects many individuals, and it is a natural response to the pressure of performance. Some studies estimate that approximately 40-60% of students are affected by test anxiety. In school, there is so much pressure to perform well, and the outcome of your performance can carry heavy implications such as affecting your ability to get into specific programs, schools, or careers. These stakes can be even higher for over-achievers who may inadvertently place unrealistic expectations on themselves to get “perfect grades” and for students with parents who place a high importance on grades. All of these internal and external factors contribute to creating an environment of worry and anxiety around tests.


Test anxiety can have a significant impact on your mental health and academic performance. Some anxiety around tests is beneficial, however too much anxiety can negatively impact your learning and performance on tests. Test anxiety can manifest in several different ways such as negative thoughts, over-worrying, forgetfulness, feelings of fear, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and nausea. In this blog post, we’ll explore some ways to reduce test anxiety, so you can perform your best on your next exam.


1. Deep Breathing.

Deep breathing is a simple technique that activates the relaxation response in our brains to reduce anxiety and be more grounded. To practice deep breathing, find a quiet, comfortable space with a relaxed gaze. Take slow, deep breaths, allowing your abdomen to rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Repeat for a few minutes to fully experience the calming effects of tuning into your breath.


2. Practice Visualizations.

Visualizations are a powerful tool to relieve anxiety and stress around tests since your brain can’t tell the difference between a real event and an imagined one. Visualize yourself going into the exam room, sitting down for the test, and feeling prepared and confident. Imagine yourself taking the test, knowing the answers to the questions, and completing the exam with success. Practice this visualization technique a few nights before a difficult exam to reduce anxiety on exam day.

3. Utilize Grounding Techniques.

A simple grounding technique to reduce test anxiety is to tune into your senses. Focus your attention on your environment and notice what you see. Pay attention to the sensations around you- noticing the sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations. Allow yourself to fully immerse in the present, without judgment or attachment to thoughts.


4. Practice Self Compassion.

With test anxiety, many people experience self-defeating, anxious thoughts that can impact their performance and self-efficacy. Self-compassion involves extending compassion to yourself in moments of judgment and suffering. Self-compassion improves our ability to cope with negative emotions, reduces rumination on negative thoughts, and increases intrinsic motivation. To practice self compassion, ask yourself: What would I say to my best friend if they were in this situation? How would I care for my friend and support them?

Now, practice giving that same compassion and care to yourself.


To Wrap Up,

Test anxiety can be a challenging obstacle to overcome. With the right tools and support, you can learn to manage your anxiety and perform to the best of your ability on tests. If you find that you struggle with test anxiety and want professional help, seeing a therapist can assist you in reducing anxiety, challenging negative thoughts, and learning healthy coping skills to be your best self. As a therapist in Gainesville, FL, I specialize in supporting anxious, self-critical teens and adults who want to better understand themselves to live more present, fulfilling lives. (Click here to learn more about me!) I offer free 15 minute consultation calls for all prospective clients to see if we'd be a good fit. Feel free to text or give me a call at 352-649-3876.

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