I hate my stupid brain. It always screws me over at the most critical times. Traitor! I’m an adult going back to school at a community college, and I’m failing. It’s not that I’m dumb – I’m actually pretty smart. I pay attention in class and understand the material, I work hard, and I study a lot. But when I show up for a test, no matter how prepared I am, my brain lays a turd. It starts with negative thoughts – for some reason I tell myself I’m going to fail. From there things spiral out of control: my mind goes blank; I forget everything I learned; and I totally freak out. It ends with a full-on frenzied puke-swallowing sweaty-palmed spasm-inducing panic attack, and an F on the test. Help me get my brain under control before I fail out of school!
Dear Anxious Annie,
Test anxiety is a real bastard. It afflicts the intelligent and the dim-witted alike. It makes smart people appear stupid, and it gives stupid people an excuse for their failure. But why? Why do people freeze up when they face the pressure situation of proving how much they know? There’s no reason for it! To overcome your test anxiety, you just have to put the test in the proper perspective: you’re going to die.
That’s right. Someday your life will be over. Think about it.
When you’re laying on your deathbed, about to meet your maker, will you be worrying about some test you failed years ago? When your mortal body is gasping for its final breath, will your last earthly words be, “I wish I passed my Intro. to Sociology final”?
When your lifeless corpse is resting in a coffin, and your friends and family are mourning at your funeral, will the eulogist mention your sub par academic record? Will your disappointing report cards be on display alongside your framed portraits of remembrance?
When your decaying carcass is lowered into the ground and dirt is shoveled on top, will the earth reject you because you couldn’t pass Geology? Will your tombstone read, “Loving Wife, Wonderful Mother, Terrible Student”?
The answer to all these questions, obviously, is “No!” In the epic story of your life, in the grand scheme of the universe, your performance on these tests is simply insignificant. It just doesn’t matter.
So next time you sit down for an exam, think of your death. Remind yourself that at the end of it all, this test is completely meaningless. This death-focus puts everything in perspective. Instead of struggling through the test with a frantic mind, you’ll be calm and composed. So get in there and show them what you know!
Peace, Love, and Passing Life’s Little Tests,