Test and Performance Anxiety

Test and Performance Anxiety

It is perfectly normal to have some test and performance anxiety. When you are being graded or judged on the results, you are especially likely to have test and performance anxiety. We are afraid that we won’t measure up to the standard set by others or ourselves. Often those most likely to do well are the ones plagued by test and performance anxiety.

Some people are able to overcome the fear and perform well. Others are incapacitated by test and performance anxiety. They may become sweaty, shaky, or nauseous just thinking about it. Butterflies in the stomach are one of the most common symptoms of mild test and performance anxiety. More severely affected people may actually become ill.

Test and performance anxiety can lead to substance abuse. Sufferers may take “uppers” or stimulants to stay up all hours studying or practicing. “Downers” and alcohol may be used to relax. Drug use can cause poor results, leading to increased test and performance anxiety in the future. Addiction and even overdose can occur.

Another result of test and performance anxiety is emotional problems. Depression, anger, and generalized anxiety can develop. Sufferers feel out of control, helpless, and stupid. When the results of the test are poor, these feelings grow.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with test and performance anxiety without simply quitting school or your job. It takes time and effort, and the changes may not be immediate, but you can take charge of the situation and improve your condition.

Set realistic expectations. If you expect to always be the best and never make mistakes, then of course you’ll be anxious. Test and performance anxiety is all about fearing that you won’t meet expectations. Be realistic about what you can achieve. If you’re lousy at math, then you’re lousy at math. If you always stumble over words when speaking in public, then you won’t become a world class orator overnight. Evaluate what you can realistically do, and you might have to aim for a C on the Spanish test or simply getting through your presentation. Tell yourself that you don’t have to be THE best, just YOUR best.

While it sounds silly, think happy thoughts. When your test and performance anxiety starts to get the best of you, take a break. Think about your last vacation, or your next one. Close your eyes and imagine yourself to be on a sunny beach or napping in the shade by a mountain lake. Think about magical rainbow ponies, football strategy, or lasagna. Focusing your mind on happier things can diminish your test and performance anxiety.

Some physical activity may help as well. If you can, take a break in the middle of your work and walk around for a few minutes. This will help to release some tension. Breathing exercises, such as taking slow deep breaths for several minutes, can calm you down as well. Like everything else related to anxiety, if one thing doesn’t work then try another.

Make sure that you’re prepared. Test and performance anxiety is worse when we haven’t slept well or missed a meal. While it is important to study and practice, it is more important to be healthy and well rested. If you’re yawning and your stomach is growling, then you can’t concentrate on the subject at hand. So… stuff your face with grub. Eat and be merry!

Test and performance anxiety can be difficult to deal with. It can harm your grades in school and your career. It can even harm relationships, as your test and performance anxiety keeps your mind busy and makes you irritable. If your situation is severe, talk to your doctor. There are medications and herbal remedies that may help.