The Art and Techniques of Managing Test Anxiety
In recent years many holistic, alternative, and eastern healing pathways have gone mainstream in our secular society demonstrating that some of the techniques known to mankind for 5,000 years within the context of Yoga, Ayurveda Medicine, Chinese Medicine, and Buddhist traditions, are indeed a significant benefit to people of all ages, genders, belief systems, and cultures, unifying the universal human task of struggling to manage juggling the multi-tasking demands of daily life and stressful events.
In this article, we will be presenting quite succinctly, a brief outline and application of some of these exercise modalities to manage events that frequently students encounter, such as a sudden onset of significant test anxiety resulting in performance that is short of the student’s knowledge base and potential.
The purpose of this article is to assist students through my classroom experience. I have received additional training in the wellness industry alongside my traditional medical background. I also have had firsthand knowledge of performance anxiety many moons ago, having been a competitive athlete, as well as experiencing the rigors of medical school training with additional three years of residency.
Most students exhibit signs of having successfully completed the task of putting in the study time, and the knowledge base, but like my experience as a competitive gymnast, the fear of “psyching myself out” takes over and a complete domino effect in the form of a meltdown occurs. First reaction is the body response, then the mind racing and consequently shutting down, followed by the inner drive and spirit broken and dejected leaving one with bad feelings and judgments on the loss of self-control and self-empowerment. Sounds familiar? Let us stop this cycle!
The new Mind-Body paradigm is alive and flourishing not only in the integrative medicine arena, but also within more conservative faith based institutions of healing that often works with the secular and traditional Allopathic western medicine models which serve our country’s health care needs.
The three methods that can be found in Yoga will be discussed in this article:
Physical exercises, Breathing Techniques, Meditation and Affirmation (also known as mantras).
Here are some easy Mindfulness steps to follow before pursuing the three methods taught in Yoga:
Here is the method to counteract and reverse the negative applications of the above three observations: Awareness, Listening, and Feeling through an anxiety event, and reversing it into a positive expansive mind. Null the effects of the negative protective mind with Body Breath and Meditation.
Meditations and Affirmations
The benefits of the classic three methods of stress management and test anxiety are too numerous to list here. I will mention the physiological and psychological benefits of the magical three components Body Exercise, Breathe Work and Meditation as the recipe for conquering negative self-talk anxiety and stress.
Body movement release physical tension built up in the muscles and also balances the internal energy system known in in Acupuncture as the Meridian system. Doing one of the above mentioned techniques of meridian point tapping through emotional freedom technique is very much acupressure vs. acupuncture with needles. (See EFT explanation and technique).
Breathe work applies the physical forces of muscles like the rectus abdominis, external/internal oblique and transverse abdominis to increase the blood volume through the venous system back to the heart.
The lower extremity muscle pump such as the gastrocnemius-soleus complex also works in much the same way, increasing blood volume and thereby reducing peripheral resistance. The diaphragm also does this thereby improving blood volume and decreasing ventricular residual volume, decreasing peripheral resistance, and reducing blood pressure simply through deep breathing and physical movement of muscles.
Breath work shuts down the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system “fight or flight” released during anxiety, in turn it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and the “relaxation response” which in turn releases endorphins and shuts down the “stress loop” activating the state of calmness, while simultaneously stimulating the cardio inhibitory response in the respiratory center such as medulla and the cortex of a brain releasing responding with interpretation and judgment of a peaceful state.
Meditation also turns on the parasympathetic nervous system inducing a relaxed state that leads us from alert states of Beta brain wave patterns measured on ECG, to alpha and theta brain wave patterns seen in deep meditation where time and sense of self is lost in a very peaceful but awakened state.
We can heighten our sense of peace, life fulfillment, affirmations, learning capacity, and concentration all through meditation that leads to alpha waves. This can be easily achieved through light mental visualization done through guided meditation.
Theta brain waves can be induced in deep meditation and light sleep. This is where one can experience the “peace that surpasses all understanding” pure bliss, religious experiences, profound insight, great inspiration, and the unity of the “self” with the “Higher Self”. It may also be interpreted as unity with the Divine Source of All that is was and ever shall be.
In the end, we start our journey to reduce stress and anxieties such as test taking by initially addressing the physical, eventually like Alice in Wonderland, we fall down the rabbit hole finding ourselves delving into the metaphysical aspects of humanity that unify all of us through Philosophy, Ritual, and Religions, all seeking to understand that Peace and the little “Kingdom Of Heaven Within Us All” with our true selves facing the source of it all in the universe: controlling and wielding the energy, bringing back balance or homeostasis.
May the Force be with you!