Exams and Anxiety

Do you have a child who is starting to freak out about testing?

There are calming exercises that may help in the immediate short-term of testing. Please read the following suggestions provided by The Metropolitan Community College.

How to Reduce Test Anxiety

To reduce math test anxiety, you need to understand both the relaxation response and how negative self-talk undermines your abilities.

Relaxation Techniques

The relaxation response is any technique or procedure that helps you become relaxed. It will take the place of an anxiety response. Someone simply telling you to relax or even telling yourself to relax, however, does little to reduce your test anxiety.

There are both short-term and long-term relaxation response techniques that help control emotional (somatic) math test anxiety. These techniques will also help reduce worry (cognitive) anxiety. Effective short-term techniques include the tensing and differential relaxation method, the palming method, and deep breathing.

Short-Term Relaxation Techniques

The Tensing and Differential Relaxation Method

The tensing and differential relaxation method helps relax by tensing and relaxing muscles all at once.

Follow these procedures while sitting at the desk before taking a test:

  • 1. Put feet flat on the floor.
  • 2. With hands, grab underneath the chair.
  • 3. Push down with feet and pull up on chair at the same time for about five seconds.
  • 4. Relax for five to ten seconds.
  • 5. Repeat the procedure two or three times.
  • 6. Relax all muscles except the ones that are actually used to take the test.

The Palming Method

The palming method is a visualization procedure used to reduce test anxiety.

While sitting at your desk before or during a test, follow these procedures:

  • 1. Close and cover eyes using the center of the palms of your hands.
  • 2. Prevent hands from touching eyes by resting the lower parts of palms on cheekbones and placing fingers on forehead. Eyeballs must not be touched, rubbed, or handled in any way.
  • 3. Think of some real or imaginary relaxing scene. Mentally visualize this scene. Picture the scene as if actually there, looking through your eyes.
  • 4. Visualize this relaxing scene for one to two minutes.
  • 5. Open eyes and wait about two minutes and repeat the visualization scene again. This time also imagine any sounds or smells that can enhance the scene. This technique can also be completed without having hands over eyes by simply closing eyes.

Practice visualizing this scene several days before taking a test and the effectiveness of this relaxation procedure will improve.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is another short-term relaxation technique that can help you relax. Proper breathing is a way to reduce stress and decrease test anxiety. When breathing properly, enough oxygen gets into your bloodstream to nourish your body and mind. A lack of oxygen in your blood contributes to an anxiety state that makes it more difficult to react to stress. Proper deep breathing can help you control your test anxiety.

Deep breathing can replace the rapid, shallow breathing that sometimes accompanies test anxiety, or it can prevent test anxiety. Here are the steps to deep breathing:

  • 1. Sit up straight in chair in a good posture position.
  • 2. Slowly inhale through your nose.
  • 3. As you inhale, first fill the lower section of your lungs and work way up to the upper part of the lungs.
  • 4. Hold breath for a few seconds.
  • 5. Exhale slowly through mouth.
  • 6. Wait a few seconds and repeat the cycle.
  • 7. Keep doing this exercise for four or five minutes. This should involve ten breathing cycles. Remember to take two normal breaths between each cycle. If you feel light-headed during this exercise, stop for thirty – forty-five seconds and start again.
  • 8. Throughout entire exercise, make sure to keep breathing smoothly and in a regular rhythm without gulping air or suddenly exhaling.
  • 9. As an extra way to improve relaxation, say “relax” or “be calm” to self as you exhale. This can start a conditioned response which can trigger relaxation when the words are repeated during anxious situations. Keep practicing, this conditioned response will strengthen. Practice is the key to success.

Practice this breathing exercise for several weeks before using the technique during tests. If you do not practice this technique, then it will not work. After taking the first test keep doing the exercise several times a week to strengthen the relaxation response.

Short-term relaxation techniques can be learned quickly but are not as successful as the long-term relaxation technique. Short-term techniques are intended to be used while learning the long-term technique.

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