Tools and tips to manage stress and test anxiety
Posted On: 10/05/21
KCC's student success advisors and counselors have compiled these tips to help students during mid-terms and other times when stress and test-anxiety might crop up.
Symptoms of test anxiety
Test anxiety might look different from student to student. Here's a list of possible symptoms you might experience:
- Physical symptoms: Headache, nausea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, and feeling faint. Test anxiety can also cause panic attacks, which are the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which you may feel like you are unable to breathe or like you are having a heart attack.
- Emotional symptoms: Feelings of stress, fear, helplessness, and disappointment, negative thoughts (rumination about past poor performances, consequences of failure, feeling inadequate, helpless), mind going blank, and racing thoughts.
- Behavioral/cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively, comparing yourself to others, and procrastinating.
Causes of test anxiety
- Fear of failure. While the pressure of doing well on an exam can be motivating, it can be detrimental to your self worth if you associate the grade of the test with your value.
- Lack of preparation. Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
- Poor test history. Not succeeding on the previous exam can make you anxious for the next exam. It is important to remember to stay in the present moment when taking an exam so you remain focused. Don’t dwell on the past.
- High pressure. If you need a certain grade to pass the class, it could increase your test anxiety.
- Perfectionism. Perfectionism is having extremely high-performance expectations for yourself. Research studies show that students who have high perfectionism and high self-criticism tend to have high test anxiety and do worse on exams. If you struggle with perfectionism, try to let it go. Make sure to take the time to recognize when you have worked hard and allow yourself to make mistakes.
Tips for reducing test anxiety
- Download calming apps:
- Insight Timer
- Practice breathing techniques such as 4,7,8 seen in video here
- Another technique to consider is 5,4,3,2,1: This can be done before, during and after the exam to help you stay calm and present while concentrating on the test information:
Try this calming technique
This calming technique will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. It can help you get through tough or stressful situations.
- Take a deep belly breath to begin.
- 5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.
- 4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.
- 3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud.
- 2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, then name your 2 favorite smells.
- 1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favorite thing to taste.
- Take another deep belly breath to end.
If you are experiencing anxiety and/or other mental health concerns, please contact Transformative Growth Counseling or phone 312-588-9437.
For a free mental health screening please click here.