At this time of year, many A-level students in London and around the UK will be feeling anxious about their exams results and the possibility of retakes. But what if those feelings of anxiety could be put to good use?
When someone is feeling particularly anxious, they will experience symptoms such as heart pounding, a tight feeling in their stomach, tense muscles and even a dry mouth. These are often the same symptoms felt by someone who is experiencing excitement. It is believed that we can learn to harness the negative feelings associated with anxiety and turn them into some else positive, especially when the overall symptoms are closely linked.
The University of Pennsylvania recently carried out a study in which a number of volunteers were placed into various stressful situations. In the minutes leading up to being put to the test, they were asked to say one of the following sentences out loud: “I feel excited”, “I feel calm” or “I feel anxious”. During the experiment they were required to wear heart-rate monitors to track any changes in their pulse, the progress of which was displayed prominently.
The results of the experiment revealed that those who proclaimed they were excited felt more confident in handling the stressful scenarios and performed better across all tasks. In contrast, the volunteers who said “I feel anxious” out loud had the opposite results. Saying “I feel calm” was shown to have no direct effect on a volunteer’s performance.
Because the symptoms of anxiety and excitement are so closely linked, it is easier to make the emotions interchangeable. But the symptoms associated with calmness are the complete opposite, and therefore could not be harnessed into a feeling of excitement. So how can this information help A-level students during exams?
When students are experiencing anxiety, it can be detrimental to any task that requires focus. It can affect confidence and also cloud what would otherwise be good judgement. If they are able to transform those feelings of anxiety into excitement, they may find that it has a positive impact on their exam experience and possibly even their grade.
Provided a student has prepared as much as possible, what’s not to be excited about? Although important, exams should be looked upon as more than just a stressful experience that students must get through. They should also signify the wealth of possibilities that lie ahead. Fear of the unknown is a natural response, but turning that energy into something more positive could be the true secret to success.
Source: The Guardian: Feel the exam fear – but think of it as excitement