It’s normal to feel a little nervous or feel some anxiety before a test. Being a little nervous can help motivate you to study and do well. But for some people, their anxiety is so high it gets in the way and makes it hard to focus on the test and remember what they had studied. If it’s really intense, people blank out, panic, and cannot remember anything.
It’s important to know what anxiety looks like so you can tell if you have it and do something about it. Everyone who has anxiety might notice something different, because anxiety can affect our thoughts, body, and behaviours. Some people have racing thoughts or feelings of dread. They focus on the bad things that might happen. Some people might feel butterflies, a stomachache, or a headache. They might notice that their palms are sweaty, their heart is beating faster, or they have to run to the bathroom a lot. Still others might feel like they might faint or throw up. You might find yourself yelling at people; spending time alone; or not studying, because you’re afraid of making mistakes. You might feel one or many of these at the same time.
Anxiety is the way our body tells us that there is danger or something important to pay attention to. Anxiety is a reaction that helps you to cope with something stressful and can help protect you. When you are under stress, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that triggers the “fight or flight” reaction. It’s the adrenaline that can make you feel miserable.
Sometimes, anxiety can happen when there is no real danger. What we tell ourselves or when we constantly think certain things can also make us anxious. For example, exams can be very stressful if you want a good grade and don’t feel like you studied enough. If you keep asking yourself, “What if I forget what I studied?” “What if I fail?” or “What if I can’t understand the questions?” you can become more anxious. Then you have even more butterflies or your headache gets worse. Wanting to get a good grade does not cause anxiety, but the negative thoughts do.
There are things you can do to make your test anxiety better.
If you find you’re still struggling, talk to someone. Your family doctor, a school counsellor, or a mental health therapist can help you out.
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Current as of: January 6, 2017
Author: My Health Alberta