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For many of us, college was absolutely the best time in our lives. The freedom and friendships made those four years incredibly special. But college isn’t bells and whistles. For others, college is a completely different and often negative experience riddled with anxiety when trying to navigate the college lifestyle.
As fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best. This pressure we put on ourselves causes our brain to identify the test as a trigger which is translated as something that threatens our very existence. When the exam seems like life or death, we have testosterone, cortisol (stress hormone), adrenaline, and other hormones and chemicals coursing through our body causing a high state of arousal and panic. (Ever wonder why you get stomach aches or can’t sleep?) The day of the exam comes and even though we’re intelligent, and we’ve studied the material, the dreaded test gets in front of us and we blank out and panic.
This is synonymous with me throwing you into a den full of hungry lion’s and saying, “Alright, now tell me everything you’ve learned from the past few weeks arduously studying.” You can’t because your nervous system is saying, “Hey buddy, there’s a lion in the room and it’s going to kill us.”
If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, then use the following tips and exercises to help lower your anxiety before the next big exam you take:
When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.
When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response of anxiety to a relaxed state. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.
Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us. The truth is, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.
The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude dooming yourself to failure and anxiety, and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well.
To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.
What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m gonna fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”
This likely won’t happen so don’t make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.
Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind while alleviating as much physiological pent-up anxiety.
If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment, 727-344-9867.
It can be overwhelming and make you feel helpless not knowing what to do when your teen is suffering from anxiety. In addition to getting professional counseling for your teen, there’s a lot that you can do as a parent to help your teen. While we as professionals will help your teen in our therapy sessions, the best prognosis for anxiety treatment is a collaborative approach from family members at home. (We’ll give you the psychoeducation you need as a parent to best help your teen given their individual needs!) This can include creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment so they feel safe coming to talk to you about their anxiety. This can also include just checking in and letting them know you’re there for them. Finally, this can include creating a mindful and stress-free household as often as possible. It’s important for parents to be open-minded to receiving guidance from the clinician because teens respond so quickly to parental interaction. It may require some work for you as the parent which is why we provide parental support throughout the process.
Anxiety disorders are overwhelmingly common, especially in teens. Present-day teens are affected by more societal pressures than any previous generations. While your child is going through this tough time, it’s important to be supportive and communicative with them so that they know that they have the support they need to overcome this type of disorder. Counseling for teens will get them the help they need!
Lindsey Brooks is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor as well as a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist specializing in children’s issues, teen and adult anxiety, and providing parenting support. She helps individuals and families improve their communication to build trust in their relationships and enhance emotional well being. Lindsey partners with the charities Hands Across the Bay and the Children’s Cancer Center to provide counseling services to victims of domestic violence and families affected by pediatric cancer. Understanding that words are often not enough, Lindsey offers Art Therapy as a primary or supplemental form of counseling to traditional talk therapy and believes in the inherently healing power of creating. Call today for a free consultation 727-914-5113!