Does just thinking about the TEAS give you clammy hands and tummy grumbles? Or maybe you just wanna crawl into a blanket fort and think about it later. (That’s my favorite.)
Dude, test anxiety is totally normal. Besides, the TEAS isn’t a regular test. It’s like a super duper final that only decides the rest of your life…
OK, that’s not helping.
Look, it’s normal to feel anxiety about this test. Let’s work through some ways to take the panic out of your studying.
Because confession time: I get the worst test anxiety. And it’s not just on standardized tests like the TEAS. It’s, like, every single test. My palms get sweaty. My mind goes blank. Maybe even my hands decide to shake! Let me tell you, it’s great.
Piano recital as a 12 year-old? I think I stopped breathing.
Driving test at 16? I’m surprised I didn’t pass out.
Taking the ACTs at 18? My hands shook so hard I couldn’t turn the pages of the exam booklet.
As a kid, I figured I’d outgrow it, but, uh…nope.
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. These are all techniques I’ve used to help me deal with my very loud sympathetic nervous system. I hope they can help you.
By the way, 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 ☺
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!
TEAS Test Tip #1: 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. You do need to know this for the TEAS. It’s a response from the sympathetic nervous system, which releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cause changes in your skin, breathing rate, and digestion.
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. All it takes is breathing. Deep slow inhales and exhales work great, but sometimes, I’m too wired to do even that. Here’s what I do instead.
The breathing technique for when you are seriously freaking out…
- 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.
- 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…RELEASE! Let go of your fingers and sigh out a big exhale.
You can do this before the test, during the test, between sections, or when you start to feel yourself spin into panic. Really, just any time your mind needs a quick reset.
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 region of your brain. The amygdala wants to keep you safe from tigers and crocodiles, but sometimes it gets a little too excited.
Looking left and right helps engage all of your brain, not just the little amygdala that’s screaming in panic about possible tigers and crocodiles. 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 post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). This means that it is recognized as a powerful stress-reducing tool. If you like, you can find videos online that walk you through it.
It’s an easy way to give panic brain a time-out so that you can regroup. It’s a technique to practice before test day and doesn’t draw a lot of attention to yourself while you are doing it.
TEAS Test Tip #3: Smell good, stay calm.
When you start taking practice exams at home, you can pick a smell to pair with the test. Pick a scent that you can wear both while you study and while you take the TEAS. You can dab it behind your ear. Even better, you can put it on your wrists so that way you can get a hit of the smell easily.
Great scents include…
Pick a scent that smells great to you and that you only use for studying for the TEAS. Smell has a direct link to your brain’s hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain linked most to memory. So why not get the memory part of your brain helping you out while you take an exam?
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.
Handwriting your anxieties is a great way to help get it out of your mind. You might take some paper to your testing center and jot out what you are worried about before you head into the testing center. Taking a few minutes to jot down your worries can lower your anxiety.
Your testing center should also provide you with scrap paper. You can use this for writing yourself positive notes. It seems silly, but who cares.
When you feel nervous, your amygdala is trying to get your attention. 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!”
You could stop the worry cycle from spinning by writing yourself notes, drawing hearts, or make smiley faces. No one needs to see it except for you and your amygdala.
You can even write your emotions. “I’m nervous.” “I’m scared.” If your amygdala knows that you hear it, it will stop turning up its volume. You can also experiment with adding a positive note.
“I’m nervous, and I’m proud of myself for overcoming this challenge.”
“I’m scared, and I’m doing it anyway.”
When I took my national registry exam to become an EMT, I was nervous (duh, obviously). Before I began the exam, I wrote myself a positive note on my scrap paper. When I started to become nervous, I looked at it for a pep talk. It seriously helped me stay calm.
TEAS Test Tip #5: Happy desk dance.
When I get nervous, I fidget. 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!”
In order to keep your amygdala calm, you can move your body.
Here are some easy ways to do this while you test…
✔ Get in a quick workout the day you test. Go to the gym, do a YouTube workout video, walk around the block. Burn off some of your anxiety.
✔ Before walking into the testing center, do 10 jumping jacks.
✔ Between test sessions, stand up and shake yourself out. Bop your head, shake out your hands and wrists, bounce up and down.
✔ 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!
Who cares if you get funny looks in the testing center. The goal is that you’ll never have to go there again!
One last note on anxiety: Sometimes, we feel anxious because we suspect something is not going to go well. If you are feeling anxious, make sure you’ve given yourself the tools you need to succeed. Create a study schedule. Learn test-taking strategy. Talk to a friend.
Ask for help. You can get a tutor or swing by your campus support center for resources on testing anxiety. Again, it’s good to ask for help. Sometimes, you need support to get you to your goals.
Hang in there. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You will get there, and it will be worth it.
Kate is a CRLA certified tutor and test prep expert. She founded Prenursing Smarter in 2017. Kate lives in sunny Southern California and is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (Mnikȟówožu Lakȟóta). Prenursing Smarter is an inclusive business and actively seeks opportunities to collaborate with and support diverse voices.