Test Anxiety / Stress


Test Anxiety and Student Stress

The Stress Response is a Natural Reaction

Long before AP classes, the SAT exam and even school itself, our ancestors experienced stress. It is a natural part of our biology, a protective mechanism to aid in survival.

Today, we are no longer threatened by fierce predators, but often perceive things that feel equally terrifying. In moments of stress, our bodies respond with the “fight or flight” syndrome. Our hearts race, our breath quickens, our attention is narrowed and we clench our muscles, preparing for action. This is no time for rational thinking and problem solving because the blood flow has been diverted from the rational to the emotional center of the brain.

This is not a good scenario for stressed out students who want to perform well on tests and achieve success.

stressed male student

Academic Pressure is the #1 Source of Student Stress

Stress levels in students have reached all-time highs and “academic pressure” is the #1 source of stress for students today.  In the right amount, a rush of adrenaline can be the energizing push which gets you going as a deadline approaches. But when you experience one stressful event after another, or when something stressful goes on for a long time, your body does not recover and you can feel overwhelmed.

Excessive stress causes students to:

• Be irritable
• Feel fatigued
• Have sleep disturbance
• Get repeated colds or illnesses
• Experience digestive problems
• Lose the ability to focus and concentrate
• Have less motivation and become depressed

Because the sources of student stress are not likely to go away, it is very important that parents, schools and students make stress management and relaxation training a priority.

The Relaxation Response Can Be Easily Learned

Multiple research studies have confirmed that when students have been taught effective relaxation strategies they feel and perform better than students who have not learned to relax. Like these studies, StudySMART exercises teach students to:

• Recognize the early signs of stress & anxiety
• Respond to signs of stress with rehearsed strategies
• Learn to be more in the present moment, not the past or future
• Change negative patterns of thinking which increase anxiety and stress


Learn More About Student Stress and Relaxation Training here:


2013 study by Michael Mrazek and others at UCSB on the positive impact for students who learned mindfulness relaxation, as measured by an increase in GRE scores and scores of working memory.
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Multiple studies on health and behavior of children across California by The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health
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“Mental Muscle vs. ADHD” NY Times article by Daniel Goleman
Mindfulness training and cognitive control
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The 5 Big Health Issues on Campus Today
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 Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine


UCSB Study on Mindfulness and GRE scores




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