An exam is always a heart-pounding event for a person regardless of their age. For many, its outcome can be vital and decisive for the future. Therefore, it is natural that as soon as exam season approaches, most people begin to get nervous, fall prey to exam anxiety and can even sometimes reach a state of panic.
However, stress and anxiety are unlikely to help you focus, rather the tend to have the opposite effect. The fact is that the human brain as a group of different parts can not evenly distribute energy under stressful conditions, which leads to a deterioration in its functioning. The brain is the central organ of perceiving and adapting to social and physical stressors via multiple interacting mediators from the cell surface to the cytoskeleton to epigenetic regulation and non-genomic mechanisms (Bruce S. McEwen, Nicole P. Bowles, Jason D. Gray, Matthew N. Hill, Richard G. Hunter, Ilia N. Karatsoreos, and Carla Nasca, 1353-1363). For example, if a person is in a dangerous or emotionally stressful situation, the tonsil activates causing the survival instincts to come to the fore. At this time, the other parts of the brain, responsible for storing information and completing a high-order task, begin to do their job worse. In other words, the state of nervousness significantly affects thinking and memory, which is the most essential processes needed for the successful completion of the exam.
Given such an obnoxious effect of stress on the brain, it is essential to be able to calm down before the upcoming test. Hence, here are some tips to help restore self-control and concentration at a crucial moment.
6 Effective Ways To Combat Exam Anxiety
1. Deep Breathing
One of the easiest to deal with exam anxiety is belly breathing. People rarely notice this, but our breathing accelerates in stressful situations, which only enhances the worrying. In contrast to such frequent breaths of air that reduce the amount of oxygen needed for adequate functioning of the body and brain, belly breathing involves breaths that are deep and slow. If you practice such breathing while sitting in a comfortable position and controlling each inhale and exhale, your brain receives a message that everything is alright. It slows down the heart rate and contributes to fast relaxation, thus relieving your anxiety.
2. Be Prepared But Not Overwhelmed
It is logical that the better you prepare for the exam, the less you worry. Therefore, careful study and repetition of materials is the primary strategy for preventing exam anxiety. To make sure that you know all the necessary information, you can start by organizing a checklist and marking down every task you complete.
However, it is necessary to remember that overloading the brain and stuffing your memory is also harmful. Before the exam, you should get enough sleep, eat healthily, and rest. Therefore, start preparing for the exam in advance. A light exercise a few hours before the test can also help clean your head, feel good, and keep stress hormones under control.
3. Empty Stomach = Disaster
An empty stomach can bring you many problems during the exam. Firstly, a feeling of hunger can distract you from performing your best during the test and drain your focus. Secondly, without fueling with food, your brain loses the necessary energy and functions worse. Finally, hunger puts the body into a survival mode, which increases anxiety. Therefore, you should eat fresh vegetables and fruits a few hours before the exam to reduce stress and take a small snack before beginning to divert from anxiety. However, avoid meals with high sugar content and artificial sweeteners as well as carbonated soft drinks and junk foods, as they are considered stressful foods.
4. Do Not Be Hard On Yourself
In many ways, anxiety before an exam is associated with doubts about one’s abilities. Despite good preparation for an exam, most people tend to critically evaluate their readiness and belittle their intelligence, which makes them worry more. In this case, do not forget to objectively assess the situation and realistically perceive the level of your knowledge. Understand that self-criticism and worrying can in no way improve the actual results of the test and be confident in your abilities.
5. Focus On The Present
An exam is often an event that can determine the person’s future path, for example, entering university or pursuing a career dream. Thus, thoughts about consequences usually cause anxiety before the test.
What if I don’t pass? What if I don’t score high enough? What will my parents say if I fail?
All such thoughts about the future do not help at all in the present. Therefore, do not be so pessimistic and hope for the best. You need to understand that focusing on the test here and now is the most reasonable solution.
6. Use Your Anxiety
If you still can not get rid of the worry in any way or if you manage to calm down only partially, do not be upset and do not panic. Anxiety is not always bad. Sometimes it can be a force moving you towards the goal if you know how to channel it. If you feel anxious, do not let it turn into fear, but use this energy as courage and enthusiasm. Allow it to translate into action and do not keep it in.
A Real-Life Example Of How To Tame Your Nerves
Ever since 2008, the world has been awed by the inspiring story of how one of the most influential and successful leaders of the planet and beyond it (read on and you’ll get our point) overcame stress. When his ecology-fueled tech empire was going through hard times, Elon Musk (yes, his grasp is not confined to the orbit of the Earth) combatted his emotional turmoil by taking a courageous and out-of-the-box look at fear: he just learned to ignore it. Instead of becoming a regular interlocutor of some high-end Swiss or Hollywood shrink and expand his eating habits to antidepressants or tranquilizers, the Tesla godfather pulled himself together and focused on his boundary-breaking strategy of making the world a green place. Thumbs up, Elon!