How to beat the test day nerves, get the brain in gear, and eliminate all test day stress? (By Ben)
1. Test Time Matters! I scheduled every exam at the same time, 8:00 am, and for good reason. From the moment you wake up, your body is on its upward energy swing. The science behind your circadian rhythm is way too much to go into here, but one thing is important to note. At around 12:30 pm you hit a "noon-time slump" (...the reason many cultures have the mid-day siesta.) Your energy level rapidly drops and focusing becomes near impossible. This dip in energy eventually picks back up an hour or so later, but the damage may be done! The goal is to avoid that slump at all costs, so schedule your tests early to take advantage of the natural rise in energy.
2. Location Matters! Take every exam at the same testing center. Simply put, this is one stress that's easy to eliminate. If you schedule your exam for the same test center, the drive becomes easier, traffic is expected, parking is figured out, and your test center procedures are already known. These are extra stresses you don't need to deal with.
3. Morning Meditation. This isn't for everyone. Whether you're a seasoned meditator or not, the value of breathing cannot be understated. When you slow your breath, fill your lungs, and control your mind, there are physiological effects that can dramatically reduce your nerves. If this interests you and you want to talk more about it, just reach out.
4. 15 Minutes of Reading. It became a ritual of mine to read a chapter of a book after breakfast. Reading something interesting is my way of "turning on" my brain. There's no better way to get rid of the morning brain fog than to use your brain. Now you have two options. You can wait until question one to "hard start" your brain, or you can turn on your brain before you get to the testing center. If you choose to wait, those first 10 or 15 questions may reflect it.
5. Skip the Coffee (unless you're addicted!). I LOVE coffee, but a long time ago I realized how important it was to not be dependent on it in the morning. I'll usually wait a few hours for a cup so my body does not need it to wake up. I'd strongly recommend trying to ween yourself off coffee for these exams. Your post-coffee slump will occur during your exam. These exams are all about endurance, and that slump is a killing blow. A large glass of water (yes...water) is much more effective at waking up your mind. Stay hydrated!
How To stay nerve-less.
I could tell you "be prepared and there's no reason to be nervous", or "take deep breaths and tell yourself it'll all be okay". This may work for some of you. But there's another trick I'd like you to try. I promise it's worth it so follow along.
Sit quietly and close your eyes. You can do this in the waiting room.
Instead of desperately trying to ignore that voice saying "you are a loser and you will fail", listen to it. Embrace it. Scream it to yourself. Every awful thing you think could happen, every mistake you could make, every subject you didn't study...lay it all out. What will happen if you fail? Will you disappoint everyone you love?
Why will this work? There is no quicker way to shut up a nagging voice than to let it speak. We try to suppress the part of us that's nervous and scared, but these voices are alarm bells! They are there to prepare us and to warn us. It's incredibly simple, but the only way to shut them up is to acknowledge them, thank them for their warning, and listen to what they have to say. Once the message is delivered, the voices go away!
I really hope this helps some of you struggling with unruly nerves. It's a subject I'm passionate about and if anyone wants more guidance on keeping your nerves at bay, just reach out.