School begins soon, and with it the inevitable stress of testing.  While a little stress is beneficial because it can help students focus on the task at hand, too much can reduce their ability to concentrate.  Many  students are hindered by their inability to perform on the tests, even when they know the material.   Fortunately, they can reduce this test anxiety by learning  a few stress reduction techniques and selecting ones that seem the most appropriate for them.  The key is to successfully reducing test anxiety is consistency: if students practice a strategy in a relaxed environment, they can  more readily employ it when facing an anxiety provoking situation. Suggestions appear below  Several may be more appropriate for standardized exams. Yet, generally speaking, these relaxation techniques can benefit many age groups. 

BEFORE THE TEST: Diligent practice & study: Being prepared is the best method of reducing anxiety.

Positive self talk:  Think about the diligence you applied prior to the test. Then convince yourself that you can succeed.

Practice deep breathing techniques like “square breathing”: inhale for 8-10 counts; hold for same amount of time; exhale for same count; hold for same count.  You can do this for several minutes while still attending to the test.

TEST DAY:

Aroma therapy: The olfactory sense (sense of small) has a direct link to the brain.  “The odorant is detected by various receptors located on the nerve cells and the combination of activated nerves travel to the brain.” Some aromas (like lavender vanilla) have calming effects. Applying a very small amount of the scent on the wrists can help with mood. But try this only AFTER you have ascertained that no allergic reaction occurs.

Journaling: Before entering the test site, take about 5 minutes to write down all the emotions and fears you have about the test. Then, rip up the paper and discard it upon entering the test area.

DURING TEST:

Practice SIMPLE mental math like addition or multiplication facts. Using brain imaging technology and neuro-chemical techniques, scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety.  Math is logical, so instead of letting emotions control the brain (the limbic system), using SIMPLE math can help to return the blood flow to the logical brain (pre-frontal cortex).

Accu-pressure:applies the same principles as acupuncture to promote relaxation Lightly touch the upper part of the ear, where the cartilage is located. This is a self-soothing technique.

Imagining: Think of specific location that is very calming and imagine the scene.