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UNF psychologist explains test anxiety

Hayley Simonson, Police Reporter

With finals week having come to a close, students can finally take a sigh of relief and relax from the pressure of exams and tests. Finals week can be potentially anxiety inducing and stressful for a lot of students, why is this? 

Dr. Angela Mann, a licensed school psychologist and behavior analyst at UNF, says the causes of test anxiety are varied.

“Some students may have a natural predisposition toward anxiety, especially anxiety surrounding performance that sets the stage for test anxiety development,” Mann explained.

According to Dr. Mann, there are typically fearful thoughts that fuel this anxiety — thoughts such as, “I’m not good enough,” or “I have to be perfect, or else I’m a complete failure.” These kinds of chronic elevated stress levels, even if seemingly minor, can cumulatively take a toll on the body and mind.

Staying positive and nurturing personal mental health has been hard for a lot of people in 2020 with ongoing isolation and stressful circumstances. Contributing levels of stress, like tricky exams, can sometimes exacerbate an already poor state of mental health. However, some pressure and anxiety can be a healthy thing that fuels one to study and drives performance.  

“To some degree, you don’t want to be a complete Bob Marley with no worries.  If you believe everything will just  “work out,” you’re not likely to engage in studying or the things it will take to be successful.  A little anxiety can be healthy and increase your performance,” Mann said.

For other students, who may already be struggling with coping, or who may have already struggled with performance throughout the semester, the stress can be a lot to manage. Having additional support and anxiety management tools under their belt will be necessary for the next semester.

Dr. Mann discussed some good coping mechanisms for people who may struggle with bad pre-test anxiety. She said that, first, getting good sleep is essential.  When you’re sleep deprived, your cognitive performance, which is your ability to think well for your test, will decline. You’ll be much less able to cope well with stress. Time management, and planning skills to help break apart a large task, will also help. 

Doing some work to try to understand what anxious thoughts are getting in your way may help to better manage them.

According to Dr. Mann, there is also some evidence from research that simply writing out your fears can actually enhance performance. 

Dr. Mann also suggests chatting with professors about the challenges you’re having. There are many other forms of support available on campus and Dr. Mann encourages students to utilize all the resources provided to them through UNF including the tutoring and academic coaching available through the Student Academic Success Services (SASS) center. If some students find themselves struggling with stress management and coping, reaching out to the Counseling Center may help too. Sometimes even just a session or two with a counselor, who can help you sort through your thoughts and all of the big things happening in your life, can provide great insight and tools for coping.

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For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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