Several years ago as I prepared for a final exam I found myself with sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and racing hearbeat. As much as I tried to reduce these symptoms the closer the exam date approached the more I experienced these systems. I would later learn that my symptoms were related to performance anxiety and a common psychological condition known as Test Anxiety.
Most of us understand nervousness. Nervousness is that feeling that we get before a sport competition, meeting your in-laws for the first time, starting a job, or making a big presentation. Nervousness is often described as "butterflies in my stomach". Nervousness can be good in that the feeling helps us to focus, sharpens the senses, increases adrenaline, and results in heightened peformance. Excessive nervousness however can interfere with performance. The athlete false starts, is unable to remember and employ basic fundamentals, and experiences poor performance. The student blanks out at simple exam questions, or second guesses answers to basic questions, and receives a poor grade.
In the event that you are experiencing test anxiety or performance anxiety there are some simple tips that you can follow to help you remain focused and successful.
Avoid negative thoughts- Positive thinking or visualization of a successful outcome can help remove negative thoughts that develop during periods of nervousness.
Relax your mind and body- Getting plenty of rest prior to test or performance can go a long way to reducing nervousness. Many persons tend to cut down on sleep and rest while cramming for exams or preparing for high performance events. Most high performance athletes indicate that rest is extremely important in reducing nervousness.
Plan Ahead-Procrastination brought on by anxiety or stress which prevents one from adequate preparation can also increases nervousness.
Utlize Stress Reducing Activities- Practicing deep breathing exercises, meditation and visualization exercises can reduce nervousness and anxiety. Seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapy from a licensed therapist can also help.
Overcoming test anxiety or performance anxiety has helped me to achieve academically and professionally. You too can achieve the results that you worked so hard to accomplish. Don't let nervousness or anxiety sabotage your hard work. Should you find that you need professional help contact a therapist.