Weekly Message: 4/20/2018

Dear Marvista Families,

This week I am writing to share some ideas to help your student(s) lower their stress around taking the many tests this time of year.  Test anxiety is a very common challenge, but there are many strategies that students can use to calm themselves down in order to have fuller access to their memories and problem-solving abilities.  Here are a few:

Before the test

1) Study.  The first strategy I’d suggest is likely an obvious one: study.  When students are familiar with the contents of a test ahead of time, they are more comfortable with what is required of them.  Many students have not developed strong study habits yet, and this is an important place to begin. Set aside small chunks of time across several days, with a quiet space to review materials.  Lighting should be fairly strong with minimal distractions like the TV being on and a phone charging next to them.

2) Visualize best-self.  Another suggestion pre-test is to have your student close his/her eyes and imagine sitting and confidently taking the test.  This can really help to ease anxiety the night before and the morning of the test.  Much like studying the actual materials, this is practicing for the big game and is a nice trick before giving a presentation as well.

Before or while taking the test

3) Stop and take slow, deep belly breathes.  When we recognize a strong feeling (heart beating fast, hands sweaty, etc.), this is the next step in taking a “meta-moment.”  We need to tell ourselves, “stop”, and then take at least a few slow, deep breathes.  One strategy we have taught students this year is called “Hand Breathing”, where we take a pointer finger and slowly guiding it up and down the fingers of the other hand.  As you move up a finger you breathe in, as you go down a finger you breathe out, with five breathes total.  The breaths should come from the belly, not the chest.  Doing this will lower heart rate, relax the muscles and focus the mind.  Maybe practice as a family!

4) Positive self-talk.  For many of us, our minds can be runaway freight trains of negativity, with thoughts like, “I’m going to fail”, “I’m stupid”, or “I’m terrible at tests and will forget everything.”  In moments of fear like this, students ought to very intentionally inject positive thoughts into their minds to settle down.  Thoughts like, “I can do this”, “I am a great student”, or “I will ace this test” will do wonders.  It can help to write these positive statements down ahead of time and pull them out when they are needed.  Speak these encouraging statements to your student the morning of too, or drop a note in their lunchboxes!  And let them know they are deeply loved and accepted no matter how the test goes. J  Their value does not at all depend on that.

Best,

-Andrew Ritsema
School Counselor