Avoiding, Releasing Stress and Tension
Avoiding Stress and Tension
One way to reduce test anxiety is to avoid stress and tension in the first place. The following guidelines (Pauk, 1989) may help students avoid the behaviors and situations that trigger stress and tension.
- Avoid situations that one knows will cause stress and tension. For example, postpone asking someone on a date unless you know he/she will accept. Avoid confrontations with a parent or roommate.
- Always be amply prepared or over prepared for tests, labs, speeches, and class discussions. For more information, refer to the Preparation section.
- Resist the temptation to procrastinate. Putting off tasks is a major source of tension. To avoid the pitfalls of procrastination, master the skills of self-discipline, motivation, organization, and time management. Details on these topics are provided in the Time Management page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
- Realize that some free time in one's schedule is a good thing. The key to avoiding feelings of guilt when not studying is to use free time in moderation and to work hard during study hours so one feels one has earned the free time.
Releasing Stress and Tension
No matter how hard we try, it seems that sooner or later we are unable to avoid excessive stress or tension. When stress and tension accumulate to levels that cause disruptions in one's ability to perform tasks, like taking tests, try the strategies described below for releasing stress and tension (based on Pauk, 1984).
- Talk to someone.
- Though you may feel embarrassed or apprehensive about discussing your worries with others, try to realize just how serious it is to keep those feelings bottled up within yourself. Remind yourself that you are not the only person in the world who gets anxious; everyone does at one time or another. It is a common experience. Talk with an objective person like a roommate, resident assistant or resident director, faculty advisor, tutor, family member, clergy, coach, or specially trained counselor in the guidance office or student life office.
- Escape temporarily.
- When things go wrong and you feel tensions building, take some time to escape from them for a little while. One may do this by physically moving away from the source of tension; go for a short walk, visit the mall for an hour, or shoot some baskets. If physical separation from the stressors is not possible, try to imagine yourself sitting next to a quiet lake or on a mountain trail.
- Rechannel anger and anxiety.
- Instead of keeping it inside or losing control, try to find another outlet for your worries, one that make more positive use of your emotional energy. Let problems wait a day or two before tackling them. Hum a song or count to ten when you feel tensions rising.
- Worry about someone else.
- Listen to the concerns of another person, letting him/her know you are interested in his/her welfare and you are there to help with his/her anxiety. This will keep your mind off your own stress for awhile and may help you to put your problems in perspective. It will also help you to realize that you are not the only person experiencing tension.
- Take one task at a time.
- If one is under tension, even normal tasks or small amounts of work can be too much to handle, let alone being overwhelmed with work in all classes. Try not to think about all the things you need to do and/or how far you are behind in one class or another. Focus on one task at a time. And remind yourself that the seemingly helpless situation is only temporary.
- Accept normality.
- Sometimes anxiety develops when a student expects too much of him/herself. An attitude of perfection often sets one up for failure and disappointment. Strive to do your best instead of trying to be perfect. Step back and examine your goals with respect to your capabilities. Are your goals feasible, or are they beyond your means? Are they your goals, or someone else's?
- Take time out for recreation.
- Recreation is essential for mental, emotional, and physical health as it provides an opportunity to "blow off steam" and it takes one's mind off other things. Make recreation part of your daily schedule, even if it only involves taking a daily walk, sewing for half an hour, or playing catch with a friend.