Best Ways to Reduce Anxiety Before an Important Exam!

2016 is almost here, and as I told you before, my 2015 was full of new beginning and happy moments. I did not get to sleep much, but I have the most amazing little daughter that I could have ever asked for, so I cannot complain!
I am about to take a very important exam within the next week, and I found out that despite the fact that I have taken many exams before, and I normally perform really well the anxiety associated with test taking is increasing, and I know it is not healthy or helpful. I decided to practice few stress relieving strategies to help myself relax and direct my energy to a positive source versus a negative one.  Having a little stress can be motivating and helpful, but when it turns into anxiety, and we can see how it affects us negatively we need to do something about it. Therefore, I decided to gather few tips and share them with you!
The first thing I started doing was to practice positive thinking. I just tell myself: “I passed the test!!!”, and I say it out loud in a very excited tone of voice. This relates to my post from last week. Positive thinking can only help.

Some of you are probably saying to yourself, this lady is crazy…. However, there is enough research now to support the idea that positive affirmations can help reduce stress, and increase self-esteem. In a new research conducted by Carnegie Mellon University by Creswell et al. (2013) they found that 

People under high stress can foster better problem-solving simply by taking a moment beforehand to think about something that is important to them.” 

This shows that all we have to do to perform better is to relax our mind, prior to beginning any task, and the likelihood of us performing well is increased. You can read more about it on this Psychology Today article. Some signs that test anxiety is present are: mental blackout, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, negative thoughts, knowing answers to questions after the test but not while taking it, nausea, cramps, sweating, headache, dry mouth, and more. How do we cope with these feelings?
Well, saying a positive affirmation is not enough if you did not prepare yourself and got familiar with the material of the test. Therefore, you need to study good and know the material. Make an organized study schedule and stick to it. Make sure to divide the work and have time for breaks and time for yourself in between. The negative thought just need to be countered with those positive affirmations we mentioned above (i.e., “I know the material, I am passing this exam”, “This time I really prepared well, I am going to pass”, “I do not need to know all the answers, I just need to pass.”). Deep breathing (click for video) and relaxation exercises work as well, if the anxiety appears during the test. Just close your eyes, and take few deep breaths. Tune out distractions (you can wear ear plugs), and stay focused. 
Remember that going to sleep at a decent time the night prior to the exam is important! If you try to pull an all nighter studying – it is most likely not going to help you as much at the last minute. Let’s face it, if you do not know the material by then, you are most likely not going to know much more, and all you are going to do is stress yourself more. Have dinner with someone you like the night before, and just review the material one last time before you go to bed. Wake up a little early so you can have something to eat (food is energy). Leave early to get there on time (to find the place or just a parking spot) and get a sit. This way you will have time to settle in before the exam starts. 
I actually found this really good list of 10 things you can do to reduce stress before a test here, and there is another guide here
Overall, once I created my schedule I already started feeling better as I tackled one chapter at a time. My overall spirit is better because “I passed the test!!” 😉

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