- Taking tests are some of the most stressful events of the college experience
- Why worrying about your test just makes it worse
- Ways to relax and take the best test of your life
Taking tests, exams, and quizzes are some of the most stressful events of a person’s college experience.
Most of the time, tests and exams carry more weight toward the successful outcome of graduating from college than anything else.
As a result of this importance, we frequently find ourselves getting stressed about quizzes, tests, and exams. We perceive it as an enormous threat the impact of possibly doing poorly.
Why We Perceive Tests as a Threat
Remember that the definition of stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat. The consequences of doing poorly are very threatening–at least we think they are.
Remember also, that when we feel threatened, the body’s fight-or-flight response turns on to help us escape from or fight something that could cause physical harm. The only problem is there is nothing that will physically harm us if we don’t do well on the test. But your body doesn’t realize you aren’t in physical danger, so it responds as if you were.
“The dumbest thing we can do, if we want to do well on a test, is to worry about it. Alternatively, the best thing we can do in order to do well on the test is to be as relaxed as possible.”
When we perceived stress, our higher order thinking tends to shut down. In other words, our ability to remember, process, and analyze important cognitive information is dramatically reduced when the stress response is activated. As stress goes up, the cognitive ability goes down.
Alternatively, the best thing we can do in order to do well on the test is to be as relaxed as possible. That’s easier said than done, you might be thinking. So here are some steps that will help you do better on your tests, and get yourself into a more relaxed state as you prepare for and take tests.
How to Prepare for Big Exams
First, it is vital that you prepare. This may seem obvious, but preparing means more than cramming as much information into your brain the night before the test or right before you go where you’re taking the test.
Research on test preparation suggests that we are able to remember more if we study things on several occasions and then sleep on it.
Speaking of sleep, it is important that we feel rested when we take tests.
When we are drowsy, our ability to recall important information decreases. It’s better to study earlier in the evening and then get a good night’s sleep than staying up all night trying to cram more information into your brain.
Exercise Your Body and Eat Well
Along with sleep, our minds work best when we follow the guidance that should be common knowledge to most of us: as frequently as possible, eat well and get an appropriate amount of regular exercise. There is some evidence suggesting that protein is brain food.
In other words, if you want to maintain clear thinking, prior to the exam, eat a meal or two that is primarily protein.
Most importantly, do not go into a test having recently eaten a really large meal.
Do Something Relaxing
One of the most valuable activities you can do just prior to taking a test is to do something that profoundly takes you out of the stress response. Fortunately, the activities and tools found on this website are specifically designed to do just that.
Try this breathing exercise on the day of the test to reduce anxiety and nervousness.
When the mind and body are deeply relaxed, that is, not in the fight or flight mode, the mind moves into an optimum state for clear thinking. A deeply relaxed mind is the kind of one you want to have prior to and during the test.
Finally, while you take the test, stay mindful.
Keep your mind focused entirely on the question at hand. If the answer doesn’t immediately come to you, stay focused on the here and now. Don’t let your mind bring up thoughts of what might happen because you don’t know the answer–the bad outcomes. This will activate the stress response again.
Instead, when you don’t directly know the answer, skip to the next question. Later on, come back to the question and watch for the answer to pop into your mind. If it doesn’t this time, again, let go, and move on to other questions on the test.
If you come back to the question and still have no idea, give it your best guess. It is really important that you don’t let your mind bring up thoughts of bad outcomes–don’t bring up worst case scenarios of how bad things will be because you might miss a few points.
Missing answers to a question won’t result in devastating consequences. Things usually work out.
Trust that this is how it will be for you, especially consequences, where you will encounter physical harm.
Consider how many tests you have taken, and how many tests others have taken. And realize things usually turn out okay for us.
So relax and enjoy your opportunity to work your mental muscles.
by Shanyn Olpin
- Both regular and diet sodas contribute to tooth decay and weakened enamel
- Sodas create an insulin response that readily converts the sugar from the drink into fat
- Those who eat (or drink) artificial sweeteners actually eat more sugar calories throughout the day than those who don’t
When people are stressed they sometimes reach for a soft drink, but have you ever stopped to think, “What’s in this drink?” The answer might surprise you. It doesn’t matter if it is regular or diet. There are some things in all kinds of soft drinks that may stress you out.
More Trips to the Dentist
If going to the dentist causes you anxiety, consider that the first ingredient in any soda is carbonated water. Most manufactured drinks create this carbonation artificially by forcing carbon dioxide into the water. This may change the pH in your mouth to weaken and slowly dissolve the enamel in your teeth.
Research has also shown that even though diet drinks resulted in less tooth decay, they were no less acidic than regular drinks and contributed to destroying children’s teeth from the outside.
Studies found that teenagers drinking four or more glasses a day increase their risk of decay by 513 percent, which is significant considering 92 percent of 14-year-olds consume fizzy drinks. The next big concern in sodas is sugar. (You drink diet? You may need to be more concerned. Hang on, I’ll tell you why.)
Sending Your Cells into Shock
A serving size for soft drinks is usually 8 ounces or a cup. The bottle of Sunkist I have in my hand has about 130 calories per serving, but it has 2.5 servings in the bottle. Most people don’t stop drinking at 8 ounces; they finish the whole thing which means they are drinking 325 calories, not 130.
Since there is usually no protein or fat in sodas, all of these calories must come from sugar. That is about 20 teaspoons worth, almost a half a cup of sugar!
Most sodas have at least 12-15 teaspoons of sugar (a little more than a fourth of a cup). Sure, it tastes yummy, but the quick rise in blood sugar creates these changes in your body within 60 minutes of drinking the soda!
To add insult to injury, when your blood sugar rises quickly, your pancreas produces insulin to try to clean up the mess and get the sugar out of the bloodstream. Water is taken from cells in other parts of your body to try to dilute it (so much for great hydration). In a little while, your blood sugar drops just as fast as it was rising. The end result is that the ¼ to ½ cup of sugar you drank is immediately and easily converted to fat.
To make matters worse, because your blood sugar has dropped, you’re hungry and ready for another snack, even though you could already be packing on extra pounds.
In the long run, when people go through this sugar-insulin cycle too many times, they get problems like insulin resistance or sensitivity, irritability, depression, headaches, or lethargy. They also get diseases like diabetes, heart illness, and obesity. These are diseases that kill people, no stress there!
A Different Type of Sugar
After saying all of that, there is still more to soft drinks that might stress you out.
The type of sugar in soft drinks is a huge negative. Most sodas are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a sugar our bodies are not designed to digest in large amounts, yet our nation has increased its fructose consumption by more than 10,673% between the years 1970 to 2005.
Fructose is a major problem for the liver, and studies show that this type of sweetener actually lessons the effect of the hormone called leptin, which is supposed to tell you that you’re full! It also stimulates the hormone ghrelin, which tells you you’re hungry!
So your brain doesn’t get the message that you are full, and your body continues to crave things like, you guessed it, more sugar!
Diet soft drinks are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Some of the common brands of sweeteners that use aspartame are Equal, NutraSweet, and Splenda. These products still stimulate your brain and digestive system by making them think sugar calories are coming. Since they never do, your brain seems to stay on the lookout for sugar throughout the day to fill that need.
Studies have shown that those who use artificial sweeteners actually eat more sugar calories during the day than people who don’t use artificial sweeteners! And more sugar means more calories, more weight gain, and more stress.
Other Ingredients in Soft Drinks
Of course, there are other magnificent ingredients in sodas, including caffeine and phosphoric acid.
Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive stimulant drug in the world. It is found naturally in some foods where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants.
I think we all understand that caffeine can be addictive, and addictions can increase anxiety for everyone. I had a roommate in college who went through caffeine withdrawals when she tried to give up Diet Coke. We didn’t like her very much. She had headaches, she was insanely irritable, and she couldn’t sleep. It was awful.
Phosphoric acid is an acidifying agent used to give colas their tangy flavor and is also commonly used to remove rust. Because of the addition of phosphoric acid in soft drinks, they are actually more acidic than lemon juice and vinegar.
This acid has been linked to lower bone density and risk for osteoporosis and bone disease. Aside from the risk of osteoporosis, cola consumption has also been linked to chronic kidney disease and to kidney stones.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is there is nothing nutritionally good for you or your loved ones in soft drinks.
They cost a lot, they are empty calories, they may be addictive, they take the place of other more nutritious foods, they contribute to cavities and chronic disease, and in the long run, they don’t seem to be the best answer for you when you feel stressed out.
Think before you drink!