Exam Stress? Manage It Smoothly and Magically

Anil is a bright 12 year old boy with keen interest in studies, socializing with friends and watching cartoon on TV. Though quite studious and hardworking, he didn’t get good grades in his school exams. His parents were worried, especially since his 16 year old sister was exactly the opposite – a bubbly, playful girl who never seemed to take studies too seriously and yet managed to score very high grades in all exams. They tried all possible remedies to help him do well in exams – sent him to tuition classes, arranged private tutors and more. But these methods only made Anil’s condition worse. Finally, after months of keen observation and gentle persuasion, they discovered that he used to suffer from acute exam anxiety that made him ‘forget’ all that he had learnt and prepared as he walked into the exam hall. The situation went worse as his parents pushed him further into tuitions and private tutors.
Quite contrary to what we would like to believe, the issue of exam anxiety is more common than we think. Infact, with increasing competition and the mad rush to get into popular academic courses, students these days are going through unprecedented stress to deliver extra ordinary performance during exams. Interestingly, whilst the child understands and recalls all answers at home, something dramatically changes as he/ she approaches school and enters into the exam hall. Suddenly questions flash in their mind to which they struggle to find the answer. Their minds jump from one possible answer to another. “Was it this? Or that? Or perhaps it must a mix of this concept and that?”. Then comes those unpleasant thoughts in their minds “Oh…my God…I haven’t prepared that topic X well…will I be able to get good grades in this paper?” As they experience these thoughts, their palms become sweaty; their foreheads develop beads of sweat, their mind desperately struggling to recall answers then switching off and suddenly all their preparations go blank. Does this look like a familiar picture?

In my work as a therapist, more than often I come across Parents and Teachers who are keen to get their kids into a positive and relaxed state of mind as they sit for their exams. Because all the sweat and blood, the mid-night oil burnt for past several weeks or months, is brought to display in those 2 or 3 hours of an exam. A calm and relaxed mind is open to creativity. And a creative mind magically comes up with answers to even the most unheard of questions by joining the dots of learnings from same or other subjects. Surprisingly, such commonsensical creativity often churns up logical and correct answers that deserve good marks.

So how can a student get exceptionally high grades in exams? Are there natural and easy techniques to improve performance dramatically? I am sure you are curious to know…
For any student, the experience of learning rests on three legs:

1. How do I get incredibly excited learning a subject – instead of forcing myself to pick it up?
2. How I memorize the topics naturally and easily?
3. How do I stay totally calm, cheerful and focused on the exam day? Making exams a fun experience and bringing out my creative best at play?

Fortunately NLP (Neuro Linguistics Programming) offers powerful, simple and rapid techniques to assist students through all of the above issues. For example; by using NLP’s accelerated learning techniques, anyone can develop powerful remember and recall strategy for any subject. All this, in less than 30 minutes’ practice! And don’t we all know that any subject that comes across as FUN is the one where we remember the topics easily and recall quickly? It fuels our hunger to know even more and also a desire to be tested – so everyone (and we) knows our knowledge.

Are you the type of person that relishes the challenge an exam brings, or does the very word ‘test’ send you into a frenzy of worry? Many intelligent people simply freeze in exam situations and information that was readily available to the mind before the exam is suddenly locked away. In this article, I will outline easy to use NLP tools that, when adopted, will take the stress out of exams, making it easy to pass.

As human beings we face our first tests at a very young age. Tasks like singing a song in front of relatives, performing the new dance maneuver in front of Mummy and Daddy and simple arithmetic and spelling tests are examples of early tests. Some children thrive on showing everyone how good they are and as a consequence grow older with a positive association to tests and exams. Others feel embarrassment, perhaps are ridiculed and end up with a negative association to tests.

From the associations formed with early tests, we create generalizations that either support us in exam conditions or bring us out in a cold sweat.  When we create such mental filters that define our experience, in the present day we run the mental programs for exams and generate the same old response. The output will be exam anxiety or exam confidence (or perhaps somewhere in the middle) depending on the individual. Generally exams and anxiety don’t go well together. There are several NLP techniques that help dissolve this anxiety, but lets look at one that you can apply quite easily.

Using this technique, you will be able to instantly achieve a state of calmness and creativity anytime, everytime. Infact, the more often you use, the more powerful it gets!! Ready? [For best impact, ask someone to read this out, while you concentrate on the process]

Step 1: Find a quiet place to sit comfortably, switch off your phone, make doubly sure you won’t be disturbed for the next 20 minutes. Ensure that the place is has a comfortable temperature too.
Step 2: Now close your eyes and think of a time when you felt completely relaxed and calm. It can be any time from your past and any event not even connected with your studies. E.g a place of worship or in someone’s arms…anything that makes you incredibly calm.

Visualize this situation in your mind’s eye. If you happen to see yourself in this movie (like seeing from the lens of a security camera on the wall) then gently slip into your body so that you are now in that movie watching through your eyes. Take time to look around you in 3D. Now, notice if there are any sounds in this movie. Pay attention to these sounds. Next, feel inside your body for the sensations of calmness you are experiencing. Where in your body are these sensations located? Are they still or flowing in a particular direction…what is the speed of that flow? Is it fast, medium or gentle? If you have to give a color to that flowing sensation, what would it be? Now…apply this color to that flow and watch how that appears as it flows through your body.

Now, make that picture more colorful, sharper and watch it expand…stretch it from all corners so it becomes bigger. Make it little brighter. Imagine an HD quality movie – clear, richly colored and brighter !
Feel the flow of the feelings inside you intensified. Make the flow faster…make it 10 times faster now…zipping through your body at speed.

Step 3: As you experience this intense feeling of calmness…squeeze your palm into a fist and hold it there for 5 seconds.
Now open your palm. Open your eyes and think of something totally unrelated. For e.g what did you have in your last meal? What did you speak with the last person you spoke to yesterday? Count down from 10 to 1. Spell your name backwards.

Step 4: Now we test if the installation of calmness has happened properly. So, close your eyes and squeeze your palm into a fist (the same palm used last time) and notice the feelings of calmness spread across your body. Be sensitive to the speed and the direction it is expanding through your body…making you increasingly calm.
Release/ open your palm and squeeze once more. Again, notice how this instantly makes you calmer. Repeat this 5 times noticing each time how much more calm you get as you repeat. Ensure that you break state (i.e think of something totally different) after each time. This is very important.
Step 5: Now imagine a time or experience in your life when you demonstrated incredible creativity. New ideas that brought you appreciation and gains in life.
Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 again. Squeeze your palms into a fist at the point when the feelings of creativity are extremely intense and also note the flow of the feelings as you experience creativity.

Step 6: If you have followed the instructions properly, you should now get combined feelings of calmness and creativity surging through your body when you squeeze the palm into a fist.

You can keep practicing this process 4 – 5 times, until it becomes natural and automatic.

Step 7: Now think of an exam that is coming up in the near future. If you don’t have any exam coming up soon, then fantasize one. Or make one up in your mind – preferably of a subject that stresses you the most.
Imagine in your mind’s movie that you are walking into the exam hall. See the movie from your eyes in 3D and fill in all details. E.g what are you wearing? The books/ notes in your hand, people around you? The building and hall you are walking into – color of the walls, the tables, chairs and other fixtures in the room. The lights in and outside the room? Any sounds you hear…and more.

Now notice the stress or tension in your body (the way it usually does).
At this precise moment, squeeze your palm and hold it there for 5 seconds. Notice how you are soaked in feelings calmness and creativity…notice the feeling begin to spread across your body.

Step 8: Think of another exam coming up a little later in time. And repeat Step 7.

As you keep repeating this process, it gets unconsciously programmed in your mind for good. You can use it as often as you like and for any situation that produces stress – not just for exams.

TIPS: The secret to ensure guaranteed results from this technique can be summarized as ‘I-TURN’.

I: Intensity of the original experience of calmness/ creativity. The stronger the intensity, the better. Pick the right experiences.

T: Timing – of squeezing your palm should be precisely when the intensity of the feelings is at their peak.

U: Uniqueness of the action. Squeezing fist is typically associated with a ‘winning’ sentiment.

R: Repeated use of exactly the same action in the same manner. The same amount of pressure each time.

N: Number of times practiced, especially in the initial period. Do this 10 – 20 times each day gradually reducing it to few times later. Imagine your stressful situation each time you practice and eventually do it in a real situation.

About the author;

Amit Pathak is a NLP Master Practitioner, professional therapist and international trainer who regularly conducts workshops on NLP and related therapy in India and abroad. Having worked with world renowned authorities in this field internationally, for over a decade, he has worked with numerous Parents, Children of all ages, Teachers as well as adults in life-changing therapy work.

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