Top Ways to Tame Test Stress
Plan for Exams, Don't Cram
A lot of people joke -- or brag -- about waiting until the last minute to study for a test. Don't buy it. Cramming makes you too stressed-out and tired to think straight. Stresses can add up to real pain. You can't sleep, you gain weight, or feel depressed.
Tame your stress with a study schedule. Review one chapter or set of notes at the same time each day, starting 1-2 weeks before the big test. You'll feel relaxed and well-prepared!
Take Study Breaks
When your eyes are on your book, but your brain isn't taking anything in, it's time for a break:
- Do some stretching. Taking a break to move can help you refocus.
- Eat a healthy snack. The junk food and caffeine you may be craving because you are stressed out won’t give you lasting energy.
Be sure to pick something you can finish in 15-20 minutes. You don't want to get sucked into a movie or a long chat or text session.
Watch Funny Videos
It turns out watching silly videos online may not be a waste of time. Laughing can be a powerful weapon against stress. It improves your mood and relaxes the tension in your face. So if a friend sends a link to a funny video, go ahead and click -- just not during study time.
Tame Stress With Exercise
You know exercising every day is good for your body. But did you know it works wonders for the mind? Being active for just 20 minutes can give you quick stress relief that lasts for hours. Exercising produces feel-good chemicals in your brain. Almost anything that gets you moving works:
- Put on music and dance.
- Play basketball with friends.
- Run, swim, or ride your bike.
- Take your dog for a walk.
Study With Friends
Studying with friends can take some of the stress out of getting ready for a test. But choose your study partners carefully. A classmate who is drama-prone or quick to put you down will hurt your focus. Study with friends who help you feel calm and confident.
Tutor a Classmate
Take your mind off your own grades by offering to help a classmate. Focusing on your strong subjects will boost your confidence. Helping others can also make you feel more in control and less stressed.
If being a tutor is not for you, try volunteering at an animal shelter or nursing home. The good feelings you get from volunteer work can make you feel more relaxed about life, including school work.
If you tell yourself, "I can't do this," you're more likely to fail. Why? Negative thoughts can blow your concentration during a test. Instead, think positive:
- Remind yourself of past accomplishments.
- Think about the steps you took to prepare for the test.
- Trust yourself to choose the right answers.
Think of the Big Picture
Your future does not depend on any one test. Your high school career is a process with lots of opportunities to improve. Remember:
- Bombing one test does not mean you will fail the class.
- You will have a chance to do better next time.
- Going back over a test often shows the areas where you need help, and asking for help shows your teacher you care.
Finally, once you graduate, no one will look back at your score on just one test.
When the test hits your desk, you may feel your heart rate speed up or your mind starting to go blank. Take a minute to meditate:
- Close your eyes.
- Concentrate on your breath going in and out.
- Picture yourself doing well on the test.
Even a quick meditation can help you feel calm and focused.
Talk to Your Teacher
If you feel confused about something you are learning, don't be afraid to talk to your teacher. Some students get nervous about asking questions outside of class. But remember, it's your teacher's job to help. If you keep putting off a meeting, try these steps:
- Write down your question ahead of time.
- Set up a time to see your teacher.
- Show up!
Get Enough Sleep
Most teens are natural night owls, and stress can make it even harder to sleep. So how do you get the 8 1/2 hours of sleep that scientists say you need for brain power? Stick to a regular bedtime and skip daytime coffee, colas, or energy drinks. Their caffeine can make you worried and scattered. It can also ruin your sleep -- even hours later. A good night's sleep gives you calm energy all day long.
Sleep Grades: A-students tend to get more sleep than C-students!
Want to finish your tests faster and get more answers right? Eat breakfast. Here's what to put on your plate (or in your bowl):
- Protein -- an egg, Canadian bacon, low-fat cheese, or low-fat yogurt.
- Whole-grain cereal, muffins, waffles, or pancakes.
- Fruit -- grab a banana or stir berries into your cereal.
If you're short on time, pack your breakfast to go.