Take a moment to envision your test day.You walk into the test center. It is a cool October day. Around you, students are rocking back and forth on their heels to release the nervous energy in their bodies. Some students seem to be entirely lost in their own world, while others seems hypersensitive to even the slightest unexpected movement.
And, what do you feel? A void opens in your chest cavity. Your legs are shot with a strange sensation: you may at once run a marathon without tiring and simultaneously collapse under your own weight. Your heart seems to beat “deeper.”
This sensation, of course, is fear. Fear is the mind’s instinctive response to a perceived threat. It is instinctive, in that you do not need to ask fear to come around. It seems to come of its own accord.
In reality, fear is not inevitable. It is not unavoidable. Instead, fear is driven by the perception of a threat. Just a moment before you envisioned the test center, your body felt calm. Then, you envisioned the test center. You imagined yourself taking the test, your body experienced the test as a threat, and boom: fear. As an LSAT tutor, I have the opportunity to wear many different hats. Perhaps my favorite hat to wear is the hat of a guide through fear. There are many exercises that I invite my students to practice in order to develop a test-positive mindset, but one of my favorites is this: say thank you.
When you feel that dread, that fear, do not resist it. Every force in this universe is met with an equal, opposite reaction. So it is with your mind. You fight the fear? The fear fights you.
Instead, take a moment to close your eyes and focus on those areas of the body where you “feel the fear.” As you focus your mind on each, say to the fear, “I will not fight you. You are here to keep me safe. Thank you.”
Have I lost you yet? Yes, it feels very “hippy-dippy.” But do it. And when you say it, try to feel genuine gratitude that your body has these mechanisms to keep you safe.
We cannot overcome test anxiety by fighting it. We can, however, change our beliefs: about the fear that manifests in our bodies, about the “threat” of test day, and even about ourselves.
You can try, try, try to fight test anxiety off. But in so doing, you are the right hand that is determined to punch the left hand into oblivion. Yes, that fear is a part of you. So is courage, joy, and every positive emotion that has lit you with ecstasy from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
This is not an exercise in taking the good with the bad. This is an exercise in realizing that there is no good, and there is no bad. There is only a young person getting ready for a test; a person with unbounded capacity for kindness, resolve, happiness, and yes… fear. Depending on what situation you are in, you may need any one of them. Each has their place.
So, stop fighting your fear because you are only fighting yourself. And, you are really, really cool! Not only that, you are more than capable of doing a great job on this test.
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