Have you heard of the cortisol effect? This concept was first introduced to me during my first year when I was experiencing severe test-taking anxiety. I am talking about heart pounding, palms sweaty, ready to make a break for it before the test even began. It was so bad that often times I would blank, even though I had known the material cold days prior.
One of my mentors explained to me that often times students get so nervous and stressed prior to their exam that their cortisol effects increase to the point where they start forgetting the material that they had engraved into their minds weeks before the test. I am sure there are people going “Oh yeah!!” right about now because I was finally relieved to learn about the physiological aspect of what was happening to my body prior to taking exams.
To improve my test taking skills, I decided to practice mindfulness 5 minutes a day before the start of my studying session so I would get in the habit. My mindfulness consisted of closing my eyes, taking deep, calculated breaths, and listening to soothing music. Then, I started to incorporate this into my exams, minus the music anytime I started to feel the flutters. You have no idea how much a difference this technique made to relieve some of my anxiety. In addition, I decided to cut caffeine out the mornings before an exam and instead have some caffeine-free tea with my nutritious breakfast. Just these small changes allowed me to have a clear mind, ready to synthesize information and take 3-4 hour tests.
I am curious to know, what do those of you who also experience test-taking anxiety do to relieve your stress?