Midterms are a time of all-nighters, copious amounts of coffee, and peak stress. How this manifests in us is different for everyone, but for others, it is a time of constant anxiety. This is much different from a general nervousness that manifests itself in the form of worrying and jitters. Testing anxiety is a more severe and diagnoseable version of this. The symptoms come in the form of breathlessness, nausea, headaches, shaking, frequent worrying to the point of obsession, and so on. If you are experiencing the latter, you are not alone. It may seem as though nothing could help, but if you know this is something you experience often, there are ways to prepare, lessen, and prevent these symptoms. Anxiety curls itself around the things we find important in ways that cause intense, obsessive worrying, testing is one of many. Some of these tips could help generalized anxiety, though it’s directly aimed at test anxiety. Speaking from experience, I hope these can lend you some peace:
Lack of sleep can make some people cranky, for others, it can lead to more intense anxiety symptoms. Your brain needs the time to rest and properly sort through your thoughts from the day before. Allowing your body to shut down also has a lot to do with your hormonal levels. Imbalanced hormone levels can affect the hormones that control cravings, ones that control emotions like happiness, and others that keep you calm and relaxed. It goes without saying that there are many reasons why your body would need sleep. However, it is a rather common pattern that those who get less sleep are more prone to the symptoms of anxiety.
I know, here I go again with the exercise. I’m telling you, it’s just beneficial for you in so many ways. Not only does exercise reduce stress, increase your confidence and overall health, it is also perfect for reducing anxiety. Exercise is a way to decompress, flush out all of your energy, blare some upbeat music, and allow your mind to wander wherever it takes you. I have noticed that when I am anxiety-ridden and I go to the gym for an hour, I come back feeling refreshed knowing that I did something good for my body and mind. It is also an outlet for stepping away from your studying for a little while to allow your mind to take in the new information. FSU’s gym is open to all students and has machines of all kinds for cardio and weightlifting, or you can sign up for a class. Come back and start again, but allow yourself the break. Even if all you do is walk on the treadmill while watching The Office on Netflix, you will feel mentally and physically renewed.
3. Study in increments
As I mentioned, your body needs breaks–your mind needs a break. Deciding to sit down and learn seven chapters straight through isn’t actually going to help you learn or memorize anything. The best way to approach your studying is by breaking it into parts. Decide when you will take breaks, how long they should be, and how often. That goes without saying not to do it all in one day. Take one-day breaks from the information to allow your mind to take in bits at a time. For example, on day one, study one chapter for an hour and a half with a twenty-minute break at the forty-five-minute mark. Then do the next chapter the next day and so on. It’s really incredible the difference this makes on your memorization, study habits, stress, and anxiety.
4. Get extra help
If you are feeling particularly troubled in your classes and are finding that studying is not enough, ease your worrying by asking for help. Maybe you are too shy to ask in class (though there are probably others with the same question as you), which leaves you with the following options: office hours, on-campus tutoring, and emailing your professor. Never feel like your question isn’t valid, it will make you feel much more confident going into your test with as little questions and confusion as possible.
5. Slow down, read carefully
During the test, this could be the peak of your anxiety and the moment when it can have the worst effects. The time of the test is the worst time for this anxiety to hit as it can cause you to go too fast and risk missing information or too slow and risk not getting to every question. You’re already in the chair, you may be thinking, there’s nothing you can do now but suffer. No. That’s not all. The best advice I have been given is to slow down, think about what you are being asked, eliminate what you know is wrong, and then decide what you believe is the best answer to the question. Elimination is a great way to increase your chances of getting the question correct. On the other hand, you will need to be careful with how much time you spend on a question, read carefully but don’t linger too long as to overthink it.
6. Be mindful
While you may be worrying about how you have done on past tests, this is a new test on new topics and you are not going to do the same every time. I understand the need to be mindful. If you did poorly in the past, you will want to do better next time. However, if you are resorting to punching in possible numbers into Canvas to see just how bad you can do and still be okay, you may be taking it too far. One test score is fine, planning out every grade for the rest of the semester is a bit much. It’s okay to be mindful of your grades but avoid over-thinking into obsession, this will only increase your anxiety if you begin holding yourself to an unobtainable standard.
7. Take time to relax
When you are hit with anxiety, few things make you feel better. The thing I always want to do first is curl up in my bed and nap, while this may work, it may also make it worse. I suggest picking your favorite activity and setting aside time to do that regardless of whatever else you may have going on in your life. Whether it be journaling, reading, biking, drawing, coloring, or playing a sport. Pick your thing and do it. The ASLC is a great place to go and get a coffee at the café, see a movie, or play some video games. Don’t allow your mind to become wrapped up in your studying and school work. You need time to decompress and take your mind away from the thing that is causing it stress. Often times, I find myself journaling, I will write whatever comes to my mind in an unconscious stream of thought. By the time I’m done, I have exhausted my mind of its hopes, dreams, and worries. I feel almost as if I am a new person ready to go out and face the world.
8. Eat breakfast
In elementary school, I remember my school preparing us for our state testing in fourth grade by serving us with a breakfast of plain scrambled eggs with bacon and orange juice. This is the first time I realized I liked plain scrambled eggs, it was also the first time I realized the importance of breakfast before a test. I have never been a breakfast person, I could barely get down an Eggo in the mornings. If you experience similar issues, then get down as much as you can, whether it be crackers, a cereal bar, granola, or even an apple. Breakfast is important to help your brain function properly and get your body energized. Studies have linked breakfast with being more alert, having better memory, and concentration. Think about it, how distracting is it to hear a low growl from your stomach in the middle of a silent lecture hall?
Anxiety has a way of making a bad thing worse. In this case, your mind may wander to what could happen if you fail this test, even to the most unlikely of possibilities such as failing the class, being dropped from your major, ruining your grade, and so on. However, you have to realize that most likely you studied to the best of your ability and the likelihood of such things happening is very slim. In fact, it would take several failures to risk being dropped or failing a class. Do not allow your brain to be taken over by these nagging thoughts of unlikely possibilities. If you fail, you fail, and you will move on and do better next time, this is not a reflection of how you will do every time. Best case scenario, you will do amazing, and that is what you should keep in mind throughout the test. You ask yourself, what if you fail? Well, what if you don’t?
10. Visit a counselor
In some cases, when your anxiety has begun to take a toll on your grades and social life in general, it may be better to consider seeking professional help. FSU offers counseling services; although, they are not meant to continually help those with severe anxiety disorders which may be debilitating. However, you can consider FSU a source if you are having some temporary problems with worrying, depression, and certain relationship quarrels. Never be afraid to seek out extra help in the form of counseling and therapy, this is about you and your own well-being. To find more information visit their website: https://counseling.fsu.edu/.