Mental Health Center offers ways to overcome test anxiety

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From cranking up the tunes to loading up on water, UT students are looking for ways to curb test anxiety with finals for summer classes approaching at the end of this week.

Jane Bost, associate director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, said the center tends to see an increase in students seeking help with stress and test anxiety as the semester progresses and finals approach.

“A lot of what we see are students trying to build skills to manage stress,” Bost said. “Being at the UT is a great opportunity for students to learn how to better manage their stress before they leave here and don’t have the same access to all these great resources.”

Bost said the center tries to make help accessible by offering interactive videos, animations and quizzes on their website for students to learn to better handle the demands of their academic and professional careers.

“We have a 24-hour telephone counseling line, several workshops and ways students can learn relaxation techniques to use before exams,” she said. “We really put a high priority on helping students gain the skills to manage their stress.”

Diana Damer, a psychologist at the center, said students have been found to have higher test scores when they engage in 10 minutes of expressive writing about their anxiety before an exam.

“One thing we know about anxiety is if left untreated, it gets worse over time,” Damer said. “The things we do to manage it in the short run, like avoiding the cause of stress, end up making it worse in the long run.”

Damer said some students may feel so anxious thinking about an exam that they avoid studying altogether. It is important not to let a past failure or bad grade hinder you from trying to succeed in the future, she said.

“An optimal level of anxiety for any given task can be motivating,” Damer said. “It is unhealthy when students find themselves worrying weeks beforehand, having trouble sleeping or performing well. The idea is we’re not trying to eliminate anxiety but keep it at a healthy level.”

Undeclared sophomore Zachary Congdon said he feels attending a prestigious university can be stressful because it makes students feel pressured to succeed.

“I like to drink about a liter of water and study to something like soft rock, maybe a little piano, to keep myself relaxed,” Congdon said. “On my way to tests I jam to hardcore rap like the Ying Yang Twins to really get me ready to go.”

Ayesha Akbar, journalism and psychology sophomore, said she is trying hard to balance fasting for Ramadan this month with studying for her cumulative final in Arabic on Friday.

“Since I’m studying for a language course, I’ve been trying to write the words down repeatedly until I know them well,” Akbar said. “To relax, I always take a break by watching an episode of my favorite show, ‘Glee.’”