When many of us hear the word “examinations”, we can become anxious start to stress. I recently read an article by Mandie Shean, an Education lecturer at Edith Cowan University. She discussed four ways to harness exam anxiety.
- Read your body differently
Start to read your stress response as being there to help you prepare for the challenge. Instead of seeing it as a threat, try to see it as a coping tool. When you are experiencing stress, you can say to yourself:I am feeling a little uncomfortable; my heart is beating faster, but my body is getting me ready to compete.
- Reframe the meaning of the event
Rather than framing exams as a threat, try to frame them as a challenge. Part of the reason they are seen as a threat is because your whole future, identity and worth appear to be at stake. This is not true. Exams are one very small part of your life that does not decide your whole future. Not all journeys are straight, and the best ones can have diversions.
- Accept stress and negative emotions
Some common ways people approach stress is to try to relax, ignore stress and try to reduce it. These approaches actually reinforce that stress is “bad” rather than accepting it as a natural and helpful response. These approaches also lead to poorer performance and emotional exhaustion. Rather than ignoring the emotions, it’s better to feel them, accept them, and then try to use them to your advantage. You can say to yourself: I feel this way because this goal is important to me, and my body is responding this way because it is getting me ready to perform.
- Add to your resources
Clearly, changing your mindset is only helpful if you have the resources to cope. It would be like an athlete who is about to compete but has not trained. Put time into study, study in different ways (read, write ideas in your own words, talk about the ideas, draw them) and give yourself time to practise these ideas. When you have done this, your stress response then draws on these resources.
Stress will always be present in our lives as we take on new challenges and grow as a person.
Patrick Doyle, Year 10 Coordinator, Wellbeing