Sitting exams is a stressful time for a student. It’s hard to avoid anxiety when you have a combination of pressure, expectations, and fear of failure. It’s quite a normal experience to have some anxiety when sitting for an important exam, but if your anxiety is overwhelming you and is affecting your ability to concentrate and succeed, you may need some tips and advice on how to deal with exam anxiety.
What is exam or performance anxiety?
Exam or performance anxiety is an intense feeling of fear or panic before or during an exam, assessment, or performance. Feeling a little nervous before a big test is normal but if you find yourself attempting to avoid the situation by not showing up for the exam or having extreme feelings of fear when an exam is approaching, you need support to help you deal with it.
The impact of performance anxiety
When you perceive an exam or test as a threat and have an intense emotional response to the situation, it can make it extremely difficult for you to concentrate and this can have a negative impact on your grades or result. Other triggers and fears can increase your levels of anxiety including family or peer pressure or even the high expectations you have for yourself. When there is great importance riding on a test or exam, you may fear a failure that will affect your future life and ambitions.
How you can overcome it
It may seem impossible to combat exam or performance anxiety, but it’s entirely possible to deal with it before it negatively impacts your experience as a student. Stress is our body’s natural reaction to a scary situation. We release adrenaline that prepares our body and mind for the obstacle we are about to face.
The best way to overcome this is to calm ourselves down, trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and focus on our breath to control the physical effects of stress and anxiety that cause the most problems including sweaty hands, headaches, tight chest, or panic attacks, or dizziness.
There are other ways to reduce your stress levels before the big test or exam. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy meal beforehand, drink lots of water, ensure that you are prepared and you have done the amount of revision you needed to do to succeed, and most importantly, remain positive.
Before you can address the feelings of stress and anxiety, you need to know the root cause. Are you feeling this way because you are unprepared? Do you think you are experiencing anxiety because of pressure from your parents? Once you work out where the anxiety originates, you can work towards relieving it. Everyone experiences some level of exam stress but if you are experiencing an overwhelming amount of anxiety when you enter the exam room, you may need some help with coping mechanisms that ensure that you are focused and motivated when you are approaching the day of the exam.
Things to remember
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to struggle with performance or exam anxiety. There are ways you can cope with your intense feelings and you should work with a professional, a parent, or an advisor at your school, college, or university to put a plan into action to make sure you reach your full potential. From mindfulness to medication, if your anxiety is chronically affecting your studies, then talk to someone. Remember to prioritize your self-care, take breaks when you need them, have relaxation routines when you notice the symptoms of anxiety and stress, and reach out if none of these methods are working.