As a former classroom teacher, as well as a long time student, I am very familiar with the concept of test anxiety. When I think of those days as a classroom teacher, I realize that if I had known then what I know now about test anxiety and how to alleviate it, my students would have been even more successful than they were.
Test anxiety shares the same origin, and nearly the same cure, as public speaking anxiety, performance anxiety, and anxiety in general. It all stems from a perceived threat, usually a conditioned response, often completely unfounded, and the onset of the fight or flight response. As discussed in a previous article, How Stress Affects Our Health, and How Hypnosis Can Help when the fight or flight response gets triggered, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones and there is an allocation of energy away from our viscera to our arms and legs, and away from our fore-brain to the reflexive part of our brains. In other words, the part of our brain that we need to access in a testing situation, is undergoing a depletion of energy, blood circulation, as a result of the fight or flight response.
This translates into an all-out assault on our physiology and on our ability to access the information we need to answer those test questions. Common reactions for people experiencing test anxiety include sweaty palms, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and the most debilitating of all, “fog brain!” As mentioned above, when we are under the influence of the fight or flight response, energy is allocated from our fore-brain to our hind-brain. This is what we often call fog-brain, and is the cause of our inability to recall the information we need to answer test questions. We truly are less intelligent when are under stress!
You may recognize this in your own life. For example, after a heated discussion when you have “settled down” you find it easy to think of what you should have said. Or after taking a difficult test where you were unable to “come up with” the correct answer, you remember it easily! It can be very frustrating to say the least. However, there is hope!
At Intuitive Hypnosis in Portland, Oregon, I teach my clients how reach a deep state of peaceful relaxation, how to anchor that relaxation, and then how to trigger that state of relaxation in a testing situation. Many clients have mentioned that this skill alone has been an invaluable tool allowing them to remain calm, focused, and clear-headed in a variety of situations including heavy traffic, meetings at work, heated discussions with loved ones, and of course, testing situations. Using hypnosis to achieve and maintain a state of relaxation during a testing situation prevents the onset of the fight or flight response. This in turn prevents the release of the stress hormones, which result in the allocation of energy, which in turn cause the dreaded sensation of “fog brain.” With the use of hypnosis, you can train yourself to remain calm, focused, and clear-headed in any situation.
I like to use a simple technique called “future pacing” with my clients. Future pacing means that you go through an imaginary testing situation, while in hypnosis, training yourself to remain confident, relaxed, and focused as you pass your test easily. You may recall from previous articles that your subconscious mind does not differentiate between doing something for real, and pretending to do it. This means that while in hypnosis, you can practice taking a test feeling completely relaxed, and that by doing so, you are creating the neural pathways necessary to do the same in an actual testing situation.
If you or someone you know suffers with test anxiety, help is available. Give hypnosis a try; you have nothing to lose, except your test anxiety!
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