The Fit Student – Combat Exam Anxiety, Part II

Are you one of those people whose mind goes blank during exams, even when you’ve prepared for hours on end? If so, you’ve come to the right article. The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, outlines an arsenal of strategies for combating and overcoming anxiety, particularly the kind that strikes and rages uncontrollably.

What if the Anxiety Increases to the Point of No Return?
What do you do if your anxiety causes your mind to go blank during an exam? Personally, I access disability accommodations for panic disorder. This means, I’ll have the ability to cancel an exam beforehand if the anxiety overwhelms. Also, I’ll have the option of taking extra time during the exam to journal in order to calm down. Journaling serves as the primary route for me to relieve the anxiety that otherwise has reached the point of no return.

Edmund J. Bourne provides a listing of strategies for flowing with the anxiety during a full-blown panic attack. When your mind gets muddled and you can’t think straight, especially during an exam, options prevail that can help you turn your grade into an A. He advises to reassure yourself that the anxiety produces no real danger outside of an inability to focus. If possible, try to move around or engage in some sort of physical exercise (if anxiety strikes prior to an exam). Let out a cry or scream. Focus your attention on basic objects. Engage in positive self-talk and breathe at a slow pace through the nostrils. Focus on your body extremities.

Positive Self-Talk
What does positive self-talk have to do with anxiety? Well, people who undergo negative self-talk engage in what Bourne refers to as “scare talk”. Scare talk only worsens symptoms of anxiety. To overcome the negative voices in our head, reframe them positively.

As advised by Edmund J. Bourne, I recorded a series of positive self-talk statements that he provided in his book. In addition, I outlined areas of perfectionism, excessive need for control, people pleasing, and so forth that I need to work on. I plan on taking my negative self-talk in these problematic areas and counter them by reverse engineering positive statements. In the process, I will upload my versions of positive self-talk onto YouTube with the additional benefit of using the clips to market a website.

When you encounter negative self-talk, Bourne advises to counter the statements with affirmations. Ensure these affirmations are in first-person and written with positive words and not negations (for instance, write I love myself as opposed to I don’t hate myself). Start your statement with the words, “I am learning how to…”. Record these positive affirmations and perhaps put them on YouTube if you wish to share your encouragement with the world.

Overcoming Perfectionism
At one of my former jobs, I often felt distressed over the risk of making a mistake. We had a Unix system that left me without a digital trash bin. In other words, if I accidentally pushed delete, a database of thousands of people could instantly be lost and irrecoverable. This risk exasperated anxiety within me, and my need to ensure a zero mistake environment fed the anxiety even more.

My job performance also outranked those of my predecessors. As a result, my boss nicknamed me the “sales star”, and expectations were placed on me to sell every single event to the fullest capacity possible. The office planned around me selling to 100%; there was no room for error. I came through on each event, but the pressure of perfection frazzled my nerves. The anxiety disrupted me daily, disabling my clear thinking for hours on end. I was a perfect example of stress mess.

Bourne says perfectionists can benefit from focusing on the journey rather than the final result. Take your education as something to relish in, rather than just the acquisition of the degree. At the end of each day, dwell and feel good about your accomplishments. Try to imagine all the ways you showed kindness or assistance to others. Every day, find something pleasurable to engage in.

Recognizing Your Body’s Expressions of Your Feelings
Sometimes, during the day, I feel this overhanging fear. My stomach feels tight and my vocal cords squeeze together. I failed to realize that these body sensations communicate a great deal about my state, so I ignored them. Yet, according to Bourne, these body sensations relay a great deal of information about our feelings, and we can better monitor anxiety by growing more in tune with the body’s messages.

Bourne says we store our feelings in different parts of our body. Our neck, back, and shoulders harbor our angry feelings. Our stomachs take on our fear, and our chest and eyes filter our sorrow. Pay attention to these various parts of yourself and attempt to relieve tension in them, with a massage or muscle tightening followed by relaxation.

In the end, your commitment to overcome anxiety will pay off in spades. Be confident that no matter the extent of your anxiety, you have the ability to rise above and heal yourself forever through coping strategies.