Exam Anxiety

University took ten years off my life this term I was so stressed. Every exam I was so panicked I’m sure I did worse than I deserve to. I need a way to calm down before I die of a heart attack before I’m 25. How can I use your stuff to not freak out like that?

Panicked Tester

Dear Panicked,

I agree that there is no benefit to the worrying. It does hinder you when you need to have access to all of your faculties and regardless it is entirely ineffectual. There is literally no point to worrying—it does not add to your grades in any way. But you do want your wits about you and for that you need to just do things methodically and either you know or you don’t know.

406 Relax and Succeed - Don't fill your headThis information is all stored in your brain in relational ways. So there’s connections between the idea of thread and needle, and ones between roses and expressions of love. Everything gets tied to anything it relates to within you. So you want to heat up the parts of your brain where the information from that class is. So start by just going through the exam and finding the questions where you are certain that you know the answer easily. That will begin the heating up process. You will be putting electricity through the parts of your brain where this information is stored.

At the end of the exam go back to the beginning and read them again and look for ones you feel confident you can figure out and then go about the process of using your formulas which you should know not by memory, but because they make sense. That way you can recreate the formulas if you ever forget them. Keep doing that back to front process through the exam until you’re at the few remaining tougher questions. And by tougher I mean you remember these less readily than the others. So study the questions very closely. Look for little murmurs in your thoughts—little tugs. Follow those to a path to a memory of something useful. That is the best way to use your brain.

Using your brain to worry is the exact opposite of that. Worry debilitates our cognitive functions, it makes us less creative and energetic and it burns insane amounts of life-energy. We’re far better to quiet those conversations repeatedly until it becomes a natural habit. Because without all of the worry we will have many more resources to apply to the issue.

406 Relax and Succeed - Worrying is using your imaginationPay attention to how you feel during your worrying. Where does it end? And backtrack to the first inkling you have that it’s coming on. Study yourself seriously as a spiritual practice. And learn how you get your ego riled. Learn it and derail that train of thought early in the process by expanding your awareness to actually watch for that shift in temperament.

You basically have total control over how you feel. Do not use your mind unconsciously. Starting today begin to become increasingly aware of what you are thinking. Look at the direction of the thought, the intensity, the path, the meaning. Study yourself. That is what Buddhism is. Not the study of Buddhism—it’s the study of yourself. So do that and you will see that you are spinning your ego in useless circles every time you worry. Better to take that energy and put it into a rejuvenating experience. It’ll be wiser and healthier.

Be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up with harsh brain chemistry out of some blind habit. Raise your awareness and take control over your thinking and thereby take control over your daily experience. It’s a fantastic way to live. So stop trying to control the river. Just steer your kayak according to the conditions and all will be well as you go with the flow. No more investing time and energy in worrisome thought. Shift. Yes, you’ll have to shift every minute for the first while. But if you’re earnest you’ll learn quickly. And this is a life-changing skill. After that the process is simple. Shift your thought-energy away from creating fearful narratives about failure and invest that same brainpower on solving the actual problem. It really is that easy.

Learn to change your mind. Use it in your favour. That is all.

peace. s