Five Tips for De-Stressing Before Your Next Big Test
By Rebecca Rissman, author of Yoga for Your Mind and Body (Switch Press)
It’s the day of the big exam. You’ve worn your flashcards out and your notes are starting to feel like an extension of your arms. What next? Are you afraid you’ll choke? How can you calm your nerves so you can show your teachers how smart you really are? Follow these five simple steps to slow down, chill out, and focus.
1.) Get some space.
Odd are, your friends and classmates are just as nervous as you are. Listening to them talk about what they think will be on the test won’t be helpful—unless you suspect that they may be psychic! Instead, find a quiet safe, place where you can be alone. An empty hallway, alcove, or even the ladies room can be great places to try.
2.) Rubber neck it.
One of the most common places for people to hold onto stress is in their necks. Once you’re in your quiet, safe place, do a few neck rolls to relieve some of this tension.
Stand up tall with both hands hanging loosely down at your sides. Drop your right ear toward your right shoulder. Let your head hang heavily. If you want more of a stretch, inch your left fingertips down your left thigh, toward the outside of your left knee. Hold this for a few breaths, and then repeat on the other side. After you’ve done this on both sides, stand up tall and lift the crown of your head straight up into the air. Then keeping your upper body very upright, drop your chin straight down toward your chest. You’ll feel a deep stretch down the back of your neck. After a few breaths, lift your head again.
3.) Use those lungs.
Yes, you’re already breathing… but are you breathing deeply? Try this simple exercise to build focus and help oxygenate your blood:
Roll your shoulders up and back, pulling your shoulder blades down toward your tailbone. Then take a few deep breaths. At the end of your next exhale, begin to inhale and count slowly as you do so. If you can, try to make your inhale last for 6 counts. Then, make your exhale last for 6 counts as well. If 6 is too difficult, work on 4 or 5. Continue breathing like this for 10 breaths, matching the length of your inhale to your exhale.
4.) Lights out.
This might feel a bit silly if you’re standing in a school hallway, but give it a shot anyway. Close your eyes. That’s right. Close them. Just for a minute. Closing your eyes can help block out some of the distractions you might be battling—your phone, your friends, even your slightly uncomfortable shoes. With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths and picture your lungs filling with air. As you exhale, imagine the air emptying from your lungs.
5.) Show time.
It’s time. You’re as prepped as you’re going to be, so get ready to show your stuff. When you sit down at your desk for your exam, get comfortable. Take off any distracting jewelry, such as rings or bracelets. If you’re chilly, put on a sweater. Sit up tall in your chair and try not to cross your legs. Relax your shoulders down away from your ears and focus on keeping tension out of your neck by occasionally rolling your head from side to side.
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