At exam time the tension and stress in the air is palatable. I will walk down a hall lined with students waiting to enter the exam room and could hear a pin drop. It is as if they are not even breathing. Similarly, I have conducted numerous mock interviews, where the greatest obstacle that the student faces is his/her own nerves. In these cases I tend to focus more on mindset and less on the content of the answers.
The reality is, if your mind is paralyzed with anxiety and stress, it will not matter how much you have prepared, you will not be relaxed and confident enough to access that information.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for those critical moments, to decrease your stress, and increase your focus and confidence:
Create a plan to study and prepare. Do your research well in advance. I have found that I cannot study effectively for more than about 6 hours a day. Beyond that, I find that my eyes may be scanning the material, but my brain is not processing or storing any of the information.
Be sure to eat properly before you go in for the interview or exam. This should include plenty of protein to provide a longer source of energy.
Get a good night’s sleep. Don’t stay up preparing into the wee hours of the morning, what is most likely to set you up for success is rest. Disconnect from the material a couple of hours before you head to bed, so that your mind can gear down and you can get some restorative sleep.
Instead of getting worked up and anxious counting down the hours and minutes, take yourself outside and go for a walk or a run. I find that my clearest thoughts come when I am walking my dog. The combination of increased blood flow, fresh air, and stress relief is great for increasing focus.
Finally, instead of standing silently holding your breath before you enter the exam or interview room, take yourself somewhere quiet and take a few deep breaths and focus on your breathing. This is proven to slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure and enhance your memory. Going into the room calm will enable you to focus and perform at your optimum.