Exam anxiety: How to deal with exam anxiety with positive self-talk
You have worked so hard all year. You really want those top grades to get into university or so you can go to your chosen sixth form. You really don’t want all that hard work to go to waste by failing.
But, there’s this voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough. It’s a mean little voice that mocks your hard work and your ambitions. When you dare to smile with satisfaction because you’ve done a good revision session or had a great mark back on a past paper it whispers mean words making fun of your pleasure. It’s like living with a real-live bully inside your head.
The trouble is, you know from past experience, that even if you do well in past papers you’ll freeze when you go into the real exam. It’s a combination of the pressure you’re putting on yourself and the horrible words of that mean little voice.
You’re getting in more and more of a state about how you’ll be in your exams as they get closer and closer. You keep doing the work but it doesn’t chase away your fears or that bully.
Well, you can stop worrying right now. I’m going to give you some ideas about how to deal with exam anxiety and stand up to that mean little voice. When you practice these techniques your anxiety will ease and your confidence will grow.
Let’s get started.
Who is that mean little voice?
That mean little voice is your subconcious. And, believe it or not, it’s trying to look after you. It’s telling you you’re not good enough and feeding your fear to try to make you step back from a scary situation.
Think back to the cave men (and women) who relied on their fear to get themselves out of danger. They relied on these voices in their heads to warn them away from perilous situations.
Exams are hardly equivalent to facing a hungry tiger with your bare hands. But, your body hasn’t yet evolved a different, less alarming system to deal with the relative safety of the exam hall compared to the threat of a sabre-toothed tiger.
As far as our society is concerned exams are important and they’re scary. They’re also stressful and difficult. There’d be no point in them if they didn’t test you to your limits. So, your body reacts the way it would if you were faced with a truly dangerous situation. It warns you off.
How do you deal with that mean little voice?
The first step to dealing with your anxiety and that mean little voice is to acknowledge it. The next thing you must do is thank it. (“What?” I hear you ask…)
So, the next time you hear it saying, “What do you think you’re doing? You’re just wasting your time putting all this work in. You messed up last time, you’re definitley going to mess up this time,” you need to talk back to it.
Say something like, “Oh, hello, you. You’re trying to protect me again, aren’t you? Well thank you for trying to put my best interests first. However, this time I’ve done the work and I am going to succeed. You can go away now.”
Saying this to that mean little voice will send it packing for a little while.
Fill your head with positive thoughts
Once you’ve sent the little voice away it’s up to you to fill your head with positive thoughts that build you up and make you feel confident about the upcoming exams.
How do you re-programme your mind like this?
Well, first you have to think about all the negative things you’ve been telling yourself.
Maybe you’ve been telling yourself that you’re rubbish at exams and you always freeze when you go into the exam hall.
What you need to do is find evidence to the contrary. So, if you did really well in one of your mocks that’s evidence that you can do well in exam conditions. Create yourself a little phrase or mantra that goes something like this:
“I’m intelligent, capable and hard-working. I’m thoroughly prepared for my exams and I keep my head when I sit them.”
If you believe you’re unworthy of the grade you want start telling yourself a different story.
“I’m hard working and intelligent. I deserve an A grade.”
If you find it hard to get started with your revision sessions try this:
“I revise well and productively. My revision brings me excellent results.”
If you find your anxiety over-taking you tell yourself:
“I am calmly and confidently preparing for my exams”.
You get the picture. The key is to contradict the bad things that are going round and round in your head and replace them with good things. If you repeat the good things often enough to yourself you will eventually start to believe them.
The importance of self-talk
I know from my own experience that self-talk determines to a very large degree whether you succeed or fail at anything you try to do in life.
For a long time I was very timid about putting my work and my expertise out into the world. I told myself I wasn’t qualified, I wasn’t ready, that the world didn’t want to hear from me.
It turns out I was wrong. Hundreds of people downloaded my new book in it’s first week. Thousands of people are signed up to read my blog every week. It was only when I got out of my own way that I could make these things happen.
Release your exam anxiety; let good things happen to yourself
This week I want you to say good-bye to that mean little voice and start talking positively to yourself. If you get rid of the bad stuff you’ll be making space for good things to happen to you. Good luck!
Question: What positive phrase are you going to repeat to yourself to re-programme your exam anxiety? Leave your answer in the comments below. You might just have the perfect phrase to inspire someone else.