What’s your favorite thing about school? If you said “the exams,” you’re either Hermione Granger or you’re an anomaly. I’m done with school now and free of academic tests forever, but I still remember the stress they caused me. If you also get test stress now and then, here’s some good news: It’s totally normal and usually manageable.
I want to share a simple mindfulness technique that can help with anxiety of all kinds, including test anxiety. It’s called the Mindful Pause—we went over it previously here. It takes 30 seconds, and you can use it while taking a test, during stressful study periods, or at any other time you feel stress or anxiety arising. Below is a short video explaining how to do it.
Need a strategy for in-the-moment test panic? Here’s an easy way to stay calm—and it’s even quicker than the Mindful Pause: Every so often during the test, close your eyes and take one slow breath in and out. Research suggests that slow breathing induces a state of calm, according to a 2017 study published in Science. Plus, the periodic breathing breaks keep you from rushing through your exam and getting sloppy. When I was an SAT tutor, I taught my students to take a slow breath every two pages, and they found it helpful. You might too.
(Effective test preparation is another big part of reducing exam anxiety. If you’re finding yourself seriously stressed about test taking, try this study plan.)
Now go forth and crush those exams! (Mindfully, of course.)
Yackle, K., Schwarz, L. A., Kam, K., Sorokin, J. M., Huguenard,J. R., … Krasnow, M. A. (2017). Breathing control center neurons that promote arousal in mice. Science, 355(6332), 1411–1415.