We are about to enter the third week of school, and I know I already have quizzes and exams coming up in the near future. So, how do we manage the stress of an upcoming test without making ourselves sick in the process of studying and taking the exam? As far as keeping your immune system in check before the test, it is important to eat right, sleep and hydrate. Then when taking the test, the solution is pretty cliché: take a deep breath.
As a student who has struggled with test taking since middle school, I know the pre-test jitters and anxieties all too well. Even if I spend night after night in the library studying for a test one week in advance, I still sit down to take it, and immediately, my heart starts to race and my brain seems to go into full power mode.
Many times, I have come out of testing and felt really exhausted and sick. I started to wonder why I usually felt so awful after an exam, and I learned it has to do with your body's stress response. I have started to recognize ways that help me manage my stress toward tests to become an effective test taker, and I hope they will help you all too.
What is an effective test taker? To me, an effective test taker is someone who has prepared fairly well before the test and takes the test with a certain level of calmness. Remaining calm during a test is key to not stressing out so much and to staying healthy.
This semester, I am taking a Health and Wellness course, and we just learned about stress responses, adrenaline and cortisol. When you are in a stressful situation, your body responds by releasing the stress hormones – adrenaline, epinephrin and cortisol – to help you through the situation. But if you are often stressed, your body has high levels of these stress hormones constantly, and they directly affect your health, cortisol being the worst.
I say that cortisol is the worst of the three because it does not go away quickly as adrenaline does. It stays in your body when you are stressed, so chronic stress means you always have high levels of this hormone. Cortisol influences your heart rate, immune response, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. So, your immune system response is dampened, meaning it is easy for you to get sick.
A test is just the thing to increase your cortisol levels, but there are two steps you can take to manage your stress and lower the level of cortisol in your body when taking a test: one, take a deep breath; and two, change your posture. When you take a deep breath and change your posture, you increase circulation which in turn cleanses and gets rid of the cortisol.
Essentially, being an effective test taker is being good at managing your stress. There are so many ways to manage stress that are simple and easy such as yoga and exercise, just to name two. Hopefully, this article put into perspective how stress affects your body and your health and gives you a chance to study for and take your next test while managing your stress.