Most people do not enjoy the process of test taking! You may be one of the weird few who love to study, prepare, show up early for a test and have your #2 pencil in hand or your favorite pen, and take a test. But on some level, most people experience anxiety when it comes time to take a test. Before you think this is going to be a post about how to deal with school related text anxiety, think again. I am no expert on taking tests in school. However, like you, I have taken many tests in life that I was anxious about. Tests in life produce the same kinds of anxiety that tests in school produce…and sometimes have even worse side effects.
Test taking in school leads to anxiety like nausea, headache, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and tense muscles. You may have a hard time focusing and concentrating on material you tried cramming into your brain just minutes before the testing began. You may find that you cannot keep still in the chair and you have an overwhelming fear of failing.
Oddly enough, tests in life produce those same feelings and physical reactions. When we are faced with a major life decision, a relationship that needs repair, a moral decision that will have consequences, or even a financial decision that has pros and cons, we find ourselves experiencing major anxiety. We may not receive a grade at the top of our paper written by a teacher or professor in red ink, but we will be judged for the test and there will be an outcome, whether good or bad.
So now that your heart is racing and your head is hurting just thinking about tests in life, let me share a few thoughts on how to deal with “test taking anxiety.”
= Learn how to pray. Before you dismiss this step as too simple or even unnecessary, let me reassure you that many people who do not even believe in God will do some sort of chant or hum or meditation to calm themselves when life gets crazy. Thankfully, the One, True and Living God who created everything has given us the wonderful form of communicating with Him called prayer. In fact, the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties/cares on Him because He cares for you!” God wants us to learn how to pray in such a way that we cast our cares on Him, or in other words, leave those issues with God. When you pray, tell God all about what has caused you to be anxious or nervous or confused, and ask God to take those things from you. Let God have them.
= Learn how to trust. Along with telling God what is causing you anxiety, when you truly “cast your cares” on Him, you have to let go of them. Too many times when we pray, we inform God of what is going on, and then as soon as we say Amen, we have the same cares and anxieties in our heads and hearts, and we pick up right where we left off. We learn to deal with anxiety by praying to God about those things, but also by trusting Him to solve those problems. James 1:6 says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Prayer without trusting God to intervene and help is pointless. We are just saying words and not trusting God to handle the problems we are anxious about.
= Learn how to respond. There will always be decisions we will have to make, because life puts us in those moments where we must respond. But anxiety comes when we are unprepared to respond. Anxiety overwhelms us when we have no idea what to do. That is why our first step must be prayer. We will have no idea how to appropriately respond unless we talk to God first. But once we talk to God, we must have faith that He will guide and lead and assure us of the right decision and the right path to take. And that is the moment we are ready to respond. We cannot respond to our anxiety, and then pray. We cannot respond to anxiety and trust that God will work out all the mess we have just created. We must pray, then trust, and then respond.