Confession: I get the worst test anxiety. And it’s not just on standardized tests like the TEAS.
As a kid, I figured I’d outgrow it, but, uh…nope. When I first started dating my boyfriend, he took me to his climbing gym. (Side note: In addition to test anxiety, I’m afraid of heights. Side note to the side note: My boyfriend is very cute—no way I’d do this otherwise.) Before you can climb up 1,000 stories while strapped into only a teeny little harness, you have to take a test to make sure you know the proper safety protocols.
The test isn’t hard and takes 5 minutes, max. You make a knot like a figure eight. You say a few safety words and check that the harness connects to the rope. That’s pretty much it. Simple, right?
No. I seriously spent 30 minutes making the knot over and over again to prepare. When we got to the
testing center fun gym, I couldn’t hide the fact that my hands were shaking.
Standardized tests are even worse. My hands shook so much during the ACT that I couldn’t even turn the pages in the reading section. Yuck.
Turns out that becoming an adult does not mean magically outgrowing anxiety: it means you learn ways to manage it.
Today, I’d like to give you 5 simple tips to manage your test anxiety when you take the TEAS. In case they seem a little woo-woo weird, I’ll give you a scientific evidence for every tip. Besides, who cares! We need all the help we can get before the TEAS!
These test-anxiety tips all come down to grounding yourself in your body. We’re going to meet two regions of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) but don’t worry, you don’t need to know this science for the TEAS—just how to apply the strategies ☺
TEAS Test Tip #1: Remember to breathe.
You probably know that shallow, panicky breathing that starts when you get nervous. Stinks, right? This is your “fight or flight” response gearing up. (TEAS Question*: Is this the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system?)
The good news is that your breath is like a big knob on your nervous that you CAN CONTROL. You can turn down the anxiety volume. By breathing. Deep slow inhales and exhales work great, but sometimes, I’m too wired to do even that. Here’s what I do instead.
- Put your hand out in front of you (right or left, doesn’t matter)
- Touch your index finger to your thumb, like you are making the OK sign, except make sure the fleshy parts of your finger tips are touching (kinda like you are smoking something that’s now legal in several states).
- Now start to press your index finger and thumb together.
- As you press, breath in through your nose.
- Press tighter, inhale more…keep pressing…keep inhaling…
- When you can’t inhale anymore, hold it at the top, press as hard as you can…then…
Do this before the test and during. As many times as you need. It works.
TEAS Test Tip #2: Look left, look right.
OK, you totally want to keep your eyes on your own test. ☺ But moving your eyes left, right, and across and up and down actually helps your anxiety.
Your fight or flight response starts in your amygdala, a little almond-shaped region deep in the temporal of your brain (Don’t worry—not a focus of the TEAS!). The amygdala wants to keep you safe from tigers and crocodiles, but sometimes it gets a little excited.
Looking left and right helps engage all of your brain, not just the little amygdala that’s screaming in panic. The rest of your brain can calm you down and help you make better decisions (like picking the right answer on the TEAS!)
This technique, when done by a doctor, is called EMDR, and it’s used to treat PTSD.
Videos on YouTube can help you try it out yourself.
TEAS Test Tip #3: Smell good, stay calm.
Pick a scent that you can wear both while you study and while you take the TEAS. You can dab it behind your ear, but I recommend putting it on your wrists. That way you can sneak a sniff when you need a boost.
Great scents include…
I also use Vetiver to help me stay grounded. You’ll want to pick a scent that smells great to you. It’s not just placebo.
Smell has a direct link to your brain’s hippocampus. What’s the hippocampus? Oh, just the part of your brain linked most to MEMORY. Can lavender help you remember the right answer on the TEAS? Uh…start buying lavender in bulk!
Smells also help you condition your brain. You know how Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the sound of the bell? You want to start conditioning your brain the smell of lavender = TEAS butt-kicking time.
Whatever smell you pick, start using it when you are studying and, ideally, feeling in control.
TEAS Test Tip #4: Write it out.
You should get scrap paper on the TEAS. USE IT.
When you feel nervous, your is amygdala talking. Like moving your eyes left and right, you can use more of your brain and write. You can write “I’m doing great!” or “Wow, taking the TEAS! Awesome!”
Just stop the worry cycle from increasing and write, draw hearts, or make smiley faces. No one needs to see it except for you and your amygdala.
You can even write your emotions.
If your amygdala knows that you hear it, it will stop turning up its volume. You can also experiment with adding a bit to the label.
“I’m nervous, and I’m proud of myself for overcoming this challenge.”
“I’m scared, and I’m doing it anyway.”
TEAS Test Tip #5: Happy desk dance.
When I get nervous, I fidget. When I add style to my fidget, I dance. Your fight or flight response is all about activating yourself—running away (flight) or fighting that bear. If you aren’t moving, your nervous amygdala might say, “What, you don’t hear me? Let me turn this panic message up more then!”
Fight it. Move. Create a little dance you can do at your desk to burn those jitters and help you feel more in control. Bonus points if you can stretch your legs—after all, those are the muscles that want you to flee—move ‘em!
Anybody gives you a funny look? So what?
I hope you found these tips useful! Start using them today when you study!
*Did you get the question right? “Fight or flight” is the Sympathetic Nervous System. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is “rest and digest.” Want more Science TEAS Practice Questions? Click here!