If you are a teacher or a student, this is the time of year when stress is really building. Around the U.S., state exams are looming, high school students are preparing for SAT exams, and teachers are worrying about upcoming evaluations. For college students, this is the time of year for final exams, and pressure is building.
Have no fear! This past year, I've developed a yoga-based professional development program for teachers and students, filled with simple ways to overcome test anxiety. Below, find the top three ways to ease "Test Stress," and get some peace of mind this Spring:
Aromatherapy: Choose a scent that is pleasing to you. It can be an essential oil, or even a perfume or body spray that makes you feel confident. Wear this scent when you are in a happy relaxed environment. Perhaps wear it while meditating, or doing something that you associate with being relaxed. You can even wear this scent while studying. Then, wear the same scent to the testing room. Smelling the relaxing scent at the test will remind you of a less stressful time. The scent may also remind you of important information!
Stretch breaks: During testing season, there are super strict rules that teachers and students must follow in order for test scores to qualify. This doesn't mean you can't take a stretch break! Public school teachers who are proctoring exams can feel a lot of pressure, which makes it even more important to take short breaks. Use your break wisely, and stretch any tight parts of your body. Just doing a big morning stretch can make a difference.
Students might feel trapped in their desk during a high-stakes test. Breaks can come in handy when feeling overwhelmed by a test. A structured break usually happens midway during long, high stakes tests. Use this break wisely! I recommend doing an easy seated twist in your chair to relieve tension in your middle back and shoulders.
Try an easy mindfulness meditation: Chances are, during testing season, you'll be doing a lot of sitting quietly. Make this a productive time, and learn to control that inner monologue that may be pushing more stressful thoughts in the way of your peace of mind. Just be aware of yourself thinking thoughts. Let the thoughts pass through your mind like a river, but don't jump into the river: don't let your thoughts carry you off. Instead, be aware of the thoughts you are thinking, and move onto the next one. Testing time can really bring on some anxiety that can be difficult to overcome. Use this meditation practice to get past those blocks so you can be your most effective self during testing season.
Yoga teaches us that moments are temporary, whether they are happy or stressful. The key is to be fully aware in every moment, so that you can take control of your thoughts. These simple yogic habits can help you push through negative thoughts and feelings, and bring your mind to a better place.
Testing season can be an amazing opportunity to prove the hard work you've done during the school year. Summer will be here before you know it, and the stress of test season will be behind you. Once you are enjoying the summer sun in June, testing season will be a distant memory. Do your best to make it a good one!
Lauren Coles has a MSEd in Teaching Urban Adolescents with Disabilities. She worked in the NYC Department of Education for five years, and started a yoga program at NYC Lab High School during her tenure. She is now the Founder and Lead Teacher of Daisy Office Yoga in New York City, and teaches for youth programs at Lighthouse Guild for the Blind.
Art by James Kelley