Recently, I was at the gym, sweating on the elliptical machine. Suddenly, I noticed a guy walking towards the drinking fountain. The back of his t-shirt read “Danger is real. Fear is a choice.” Hmm.
I found myself wondering. Of course I have fears! I don’t have phobias, but I for sure have fears! Why would fear be optional, but danger real?
Shortly after seeing the kid with the t-shirt, I had a couple of eye-opening conversations with Montreal’s top anxiety and depression psychotherapist, Sandra Reich, about anxiety. (Listen here and here.)
According to Sandra, in the days when the saber-toothed tiger was chasing us, yes, indeed, we needed to be fearful! We were facing danger! Fear was helpful! Our sympathetic nervous system kicked in to help us defend ourselves in the “fight” with the saber toothed tiger. And, it helped us to accomplish “flight” in case the fight wasn’t possible, or wasn’t successful. Indeed, in this circumstance, danger is real. (For more on “fight or flight response,” see here.)
In the modern world, few of us face “saber-toothed tiger” situations. Yet, we worry. We fret, and we stress out. We have the fight or flight response for a fear in our head, not the saber-toothed tiger situations. Anyone facing the IBLCE Exam knows what I’m talking about!
If this is you, read on for my top recommendations for exam sitters.
Believe that fear and anxiety is optional
Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” How true! Being fearful of the exam only kicks your sympathetic nervous system into high gear. It does not improve your ability to retain information or perform better on the exam — in some cases, it may cause you to perform worse.
Tell yourself a different story
Sandra warned about the potential detriment of a negative story in your head. Henry Ford made her point years ago: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you right.” In other words, if the story floating around in your head is “I might fail” then indeed, you might. Sandra Reich and Henry Ford are saying the same thing: Negative self-talk can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Don’t procrastinate; get a study schedule and stick to it
Procrastinating adds stress. And, if you’re fearful about the stuff you don’t know, use this great tip I learned from Sandra: “Avoidance is the friend of anxiety. Move towards your fears.”
Take care of yourself
Binging on high-sugar comfort foods or burning the midnight oil to study is counterproductive. Instead, burn off your anxiety with some vigorous exercise. Even a brisk walk helps.
Use breathing exercises, visualization, positive affirmations, or hypnosis
I hesitate to clump all of these techniques together, but yes, breathing exercises, hypnosis, visualization or positive affirmations are highly effective. No, these techniques don’t work the first time you use them. But after a few weeks, when you slide into their lull, you’ll never want to go without these aids again.
I have used a little visualization, but my friend Teresa Bailey has used it often. I use positive affirmations to replace negative self-talk, and I have a free app on my phone to do the ancient pranayama breathing exercises. Even 5 minutes helps me to refresh and relieves my anxiety.
There’s no need to fear the IBLCE Exam. Your fear is just a thought, and a thought can be changed.
What strategies do you use to relax when faced with IBLCE Exam stress? Tell me in the comments below! And please share with a friend who might have the same anxieties!