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- Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois Foundation: Continuing the Legacy Celebrating 70-year commitment to education and Hellenism
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Stress And Test Anxiety
Stress exists when the adaptive capacity of the individual is overwhelmed by events. For each individual, stress is subjectively defined, and the response to stress is a function of each person’s personality and physiologic endowment.
Anxiety can become self generating, since the symptoms reinforce the reaction, causing it to spiral.
Stress, fear, and anxiety all tend to be interactive. The principal components of anxiety are psychological, such as tension, fears, difficulty in concentration, apprehension, and dissociative states, and somatic such as:
• Low energy
• Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
• Aches, pains, and tense muscles
• Chest pain, and rapid heartbeat
• Frequent colds and infections
• Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
• Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
• Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
• Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
• Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
• Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
• Spousal or relationship problems
Another common cause of anxiety seen today amongst young adults is Test Anxiety, which is is a combination of physiological over-arousal, along with worry, dread, fear of failure, and catastrophizing, that occur before or during test situations. It is a physiological condition in which people experience extreme stress, anxiety, and discomfort during and/or before taking a test. This anxiety creates significant barriers to learning and performance. Test anxiety can have broader consequences, negatively affecting a student’s social, emotional, and relationship development, as well as their feelings about themselves.
Common physical symptoms include: headache, upset stomach, feeling of fear, feeling of dread, shortness of breath, sweating, pacing or fidgeting, crying, racing thoughts, and blanking out.
During states of panic or stress, the body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline is known to cause physical symptoms that accompany test anxiety, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. In many cases having adrenaline is a good thing. It is helpful when dealing with stressful situations, ensuring alertness and preparation. But for some people the symptoms are difficult or impossible to handle, making it impossible to focus on tests.
Tips for Managing Test Anxiety:
• Be Prepared – Develop good study habits. Study at least a week or two before the exam, in smaller increments of time and over a few days (instead of pulling an “all-nighter”). Try to simulate exam conditions by working through a practice test, following the same time constraints.
• Maintain a Positive Attitude – Remember that your self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by a test grade. Creating a system of rewards and reasonable expectations for studying can help to produce effective studying habits. There is no benefit to negative thinking.
• Practice Relaxation Techniques – If you feel stressed during the exam, take deep, slow breaths and consciously relax your muscles, one at a time. This can invigorate your body and will allow you to better focus on the exam. Medications will not cure anxiety disorders but will keep them under control. Drug treatments for anxiety disorders work by downplaying threat detecting mechanisms in the body.
• Beta blockers — commonly used to treat performance anxiety. Propranolol (a beta blocker) blocks the physical manifestations of anxiety. It slows heart rate and reduces sweating. They can be used as someone is studying for their test .It is not to be taken on the first day of a test, as some people are shown to have adverse side effects which include, dizziness and lightheadedness
• Benzodiazepines — commonly used to treat test anxiety. They include medications like Ativan or Xanax. They can be used as someone is studying for their test. On test day, they should be taken up to 30 minutes before the start of the test.
Sara Paddison, an expert on stress once said: “Stress is inner biofeedback, signaling you that frequencies are fighting within your system. The purpose of stress isn’t to hurt you, but to let you know it’s time to go back to the heart and start loving.”