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The teacher is passing out the exam. Suddenly, your palms begin to sweat and your heart is racing.

You try to read the first question when suddenly, the words disappear off the page. As you search your brain for the material you studied, it seems like all your preparation was a waste. Even the sound of your breath begins to worry you. Is there any relief?

Test anxiety is a common form of performance anxiety that produces a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, including:

  • nausea
  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweating
  • fear
  • memory loss
  • self-doubt
  • frustration
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • low focus

Causes of test anxiety may include:

  • fear of failure
  • lack of adequate prep time
  • bad experiences taking tests in the past

It’s important to recognize when anxiety arises. With support, test anxiety is manageable.

5 Ways to Manage Test Anxiety

1. Practice Self-Care

A good night’s rest and a balanced diet are crucial for optimal work performance. Research shows that when we are sleep-deprived, our levels of anxiety increase. Try getting 7-9 hours of sleep the night before a test and having a healthy breakfast the morning of to energize you for the day.

2. Establish a Pre-Test Routine

Everyone’s pre-test routine will look different, but it’s essential to find what works best for you. Make sure to include adequate study time in your routine, as this will help boost your confidence going into the exam. Create a study plan ahead of time and review any questions with a teacher.

In addition to academic preparation, your routine includes your mental and emotional preparation leading up to the test. Reflect on your test anxiety and note any patterns, such as negative self-talk in the days before the exam, procrastination, irritability, etc. In conjunction with practicing self-care, begin to utilize coping skills before the exam to set a positive mindset.

These skills could include journaling, exercise, practicing positive self-talk, and visualization techniques.

3. Utilize Grounding Techniques

When test anxiety hits, our mind takes over with racing thoughts. Grounding techniques pull us back to the present moment. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a helpful in-the-moment aid to slow down our thoughts.

First, find your breath. Listen to the inhales and exhales and invite your body to focus on this moment. Then, acknowledge the following:

  • 5 things you can see around you
  • 4 things that you can touch
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

Grounding techniques can help decrease the physical and emotional symptoms of test anxiety.

4. Ask For Help

Let your teacher know if you feel anxious and ask what accommodations are available. If you’re worried during the preparation phase, reach out to your teacher and inquire about study guides or additional resources.

5. Acknowledge Anxiety If It Arrives, and Let It Go

Consider anxiety as a traveler just passing through. It can be helpful to acknowledge test anxiety to establish its distance and temporary nature. It becomes easier to utilize coping skills, such as grounding techniques, when you conceptualize anxiety as a force outside of yourself.

Next Steps

Next time you have an exam, consider trying these techniques to ease your anxiety and confidently approach your test. If you’d like to discuss your symptoms and learn more ways to manage your anxiety, please contact us at (415) 952-0290 to schedule a free consult. 


About the Author

Ashlyn believes, “Together, we will discover what is no longer serving you and replace it with the skills to help you live a more fulfilling life.”





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