Tips from the Counseling Center on Alleviating Test Anxiety

Two students taking an exam
Photo by Jeswin Thomas from Unsplash.

Being in college is one of the greatest and most exciting experiences that many of us look forward to at some point in our lives. As college students, we get excited to meet new friends, enjoy the amenities on campus and join clubs that involve fun and entertaining extracurricular activities. Student life, however, brings up anxiety and stress as well, especially during final exams. 

With finals, it can be very difficult to manage our anxiety and stress levels when our mind is focused on studying and getting good grades. It is important to know that there are resources and ways in which students can decrease and alleviate test anxiety and anxiety overall.

Dr. Steven Martel, a licensed clinical psychologist, faculty counselor, and the program chair of the Counseling Center at Bellevue College, talked to The Watchdog about BC’s counseling services, mental health support for students, and what to do to alleviate test anxiety, which is very common among college students. 

The Counseling Center at BC is a resource open and free of charge for every Bellevue College student. “Our main focus is providing mental health support to students… Generally [it] is providing one-on-one counseling,” Dr. Martel says. 

The Counseling Center and Dr. Martel provide great advice and techniques for students to alleviate test anxiety and manage their stress levels during finals. 

Some of them are: 

  1. Get enough sleep: Resting is one of the basics to take care of our body and mind. “Seven to eight hours is probably what we need,” Dr. Martel adds. 
  2. Get proper nutrition: Eating and making sure we are hydrated is also a very important aspect of a proper self-care routine. “Our bodies need that fuel, [they] need that energy throughout the day,” Dr. Martel says. Check out The Watchdog’s College Cooking series for recipe ideas to make at home.
  3. Exercise: Simple things like taking a walk, going to the gym, or playing a sport can make significant changes in the way we feel. “That aerobic exercise is so helpful because when you’re breathing, [it] helps to reduce that stress. It helps send a message to the amygdala which houses our emotional senses,” Dr. Martel mentions. If you’re unsure where to start, check out BC’s free fitness classes for students.
  4. Take deep breaths: Breathing can be the easiest and most effective technique to decrease stress and anxiety. Dr. Martel recommends a 4-7-8 breathing strategy: “You breathe in for four seconds, you hold that breath for seven, you release that breath for eight and then you repeat that about four times.” 

Test anxiety can be overwhelming, but following these steps can help release and alleviate it significantly. Students can access Counseling Center services such as personal counseling, career counseling, educational counseling, and group counseling through the Counseling Center website.