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Tips for Test Taking Stress

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

Are American students the world’s most tested kids? According to Teachers College at Columbia University, American students take more than 100 million standardized tests every year. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators are unbelievably stressed about these critical exams because the test results often determine a child’s future placement in school and are increasingly seen as a measure of teacher and school competence.

Maximize test scores and minimize testing stress with my ten tips below.

Eat blueberries and bananas

 These foods increase your serotonin, which can counter high cortisol levels that occur in stressful situations. Foods with B-6, protein, and complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, turkey, rice, sunflower seeds, tuna, whole-grain bread, pasta, cereals, and fruit increase serotonin and endorphins, which open the brain channels.

Wear your favorite color to the test

Science shows that color greatly influences our mood, productivity, and creativity. Science is beginning to tell us how greatly our moods, productivity, and creativity are influenced by color. Surround yourself with your favorite color, from your pencils to your earrings. This is calming and creates a balance in your test-taking environment.

Walk around the block

Before school starts, take a quick walk around your block. Exercise produces endorphins (healing hormones) almost immediately, which helps lower cortisol effectively and reduces stress. Discover new exercises such as pilates, yoga, tai chi, or chi gong.

Laugh out loud

Laughter has been scientifically proven to reduce stress hormones and release endorphins. Go to YouTube and watch a funny 2-minute video. Find a website with jokes and share them with your family. Laughter even boosts your immune function and will prevent you from getting sick.

Take a hot bath

 The night before the test take a warm bath and use aromatherapy candles. Science tells us that water reduces stress in the mind, body, and soul. The morning of the test, turn on the faucet and put your hands (up to your wrists) under the water. Take a deep breath and clear your mind for one minute.

Maintain an “attitude of gratitude

It is physiologically impossible to be grateful and experience stress at the same time. Studies tell us daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. Research shows grateful individuals report having more energy and less physical complaints than their non-grateful counterparts.

See the others in the testing room as your community

Isolation is an illusion. Viewing your fellow testers as a team will increase your feeling of safety and decrease your heart rate. Having a community is essential to reducing stress.

Repeat positive affirmations

 Say something like, “I will do my best today,” or “All is well.” Stop self-hate talk and thinking. Empower yourself.

Remember to breathe deeply

Most people take shallow breaths when they are stressed, which starves the body and brain of oxygen. This starves the body and brain of oxygen. Develop the practice of taking a deep breath before you take tests. The breath clears the mind, body, and soul.

Practice guided imagery 

Take a deep breath and imagine you are in a safe place like the beach or a meadow. This will get you centered, clear your mind, and reduce the worry. Science tells us that guided imagery is an excellent method for reducing stress in the mind, body, and soul.

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