By Juanita Ecker
Do you suffer from test anxiety? Test anxiety is more common than you think. Most of us encounter tests of one kind or another throughout our lives. Maybe you are a student, maybe you need to take a test for a certification in a new career, or maybe you are preparing for a job interview to move up in your field. Some people are really good at taking tests and others struggle with it.
I am in the group who struggles with tests. Preparing for an exam or taking a test has never been easy for me. As a child, I would consistently study, do the required reading, finish all the homework, and yet often not do well on the test. How could that be? I used to think it was because I got so nervous at the time of the test that I would forget everything I had learned or studied in preparation for the test. I envied those people who barely opened a book yet easily passed the test.
Recently, I had an experience that gave me some insight as to why I have struggled with tests my whole life. In the last eight months, I have been preparing for an advanced certification. I am in the final stages of finishing and the date to take the test is getting closer. I was feeling anxious, uptight, and nervous. I started to worry about passing; I began to fret over the time constraint and was concerned I wouldn’t finish in time; and I was beginning to think that all the effort I put into preparing for the test would be for nothing. I was annoyed with the stress and anxiety I was feeling. It seemed I was repeating the same old pattern that had become so familiar to me when I was a child in school. I thought I was over that–NOT!
I asked a colleague who is an EFT practitioner to address the issue with me. As we started to tap, I remembered something that happened when I was 8 years old. I went to a Catholic school and I was terrified of the nuns since they would hit you with a ruler if you did something wrong. The teacher passed out a recent test that had been graded. I got two wrong and received a “D” as the grade. I was shocked that I would get a failing grade for having only two incorrect answers. My friend Nancy, who was sitting next to me, also got two wrong and received a “B” as her test score. I was totally confused and didn’t understand what had happened. I thought maybe the teacher made a mistake in assigning my grade.
After the class, I went up to the nun and very gently said, “There must be some mistake, I got two wrong and got a “D” and Nancy got two wrong and got a “B.” She coolly responded with, “Anyone who is stupid enough to get those two questions wrong deserves a “D.” When I told my mother about it, she did not fight the teacher on her decision. I felt discouraged and defeated. As a result, my child’s brain assumed the belief that I must be stupid!
I have told that story many times. I may have gotten over it emotionally, but energetically it was still stuck in my body. The adults around me might have assumed it wasn’t a big deal. Yet to the child, it was. I spent my whole life trying to prove I was not stupid. It is amazing that beliefs we created as children can run our lives as adults.
As we started to tap on this memory, I was flooded with all the sad emotions I felt at the time of that event. My 8-year-old child never got to express what she was feeling: the anger at the nun for assigning me that label, the anger at my mother for not sticking up for me, the feeling of hopelessness when it comes to taking a test, and a feeling of being totally defeated. It turned out this past experience was playing into the current test anxiety I was feeling. Once we tapped on all the emotions I felt and the old patterns around text anxiety, I began to feel less anxious about the upcoming test. I felt a release and a welcome shift in my body.
If you are someone who feels the pressure to do well; you get nervous, anxious, or even physically ill during a test; you panic when there is a time constraint; your heart starts to race, your palms get sweaty, or you forget everything you’ve learned, you may have had an earlier experience that is impacting your test anxiety. Your experiences may not have been the same as mine, yet you probably have emotional triggers from the past that are affecting your current situation.
I am glad we were able to use the EFT tapping protocol to release those emotions from my body. I now feel confident about taking the test and I know that all my studying will pay off.
Juanita Ecker is an international EFT tapping coach. She specializes in test anxiety, pet loss grief, dealing with an aging parent, and coping with a spouse who has an addiction.