Test and Performance anxiety

It is coming to the end of 1st semester (or the end of the quarter) and you might be feeling a lot of stress about the upcoming finals. This is a good thing! Woah, I know, I know, you’re wondering, how can all these negative emotions be good!?

Well that stress is causing you to actually DO something about it, and you are feeling stressed because you are motivated to do the work. On the flip side, if you did not feel stress about completing the work then nothing at all would be accomplished because you wouldn’t care enough to complete it.

The Yerkes-Dodsan law explains the relationship between the state of arousal that anxiety gives us and optimal performance. This can be performance in a test, public speaking engagement, sporting event, etc. The theory explains that the state of anxiety that I am referring to gets us off our butts to actually give us motivation to perform, and if we use this anxiety to our advantage it can really help us perform at our best.

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Yerkes-Dodsan law  (1908)

When does anxiety not serve us?

When we are overly anxious then we are not going to perform at our best. There is a line between the amount of anxiety that is perfect to get us up and motivated to perform and so anxious that we feel as if we are incapable of even completing the assignment. This type of stress looks like writing page after page of a first draft and deleting all of the words over and over again because it does not look good enough to you. This type of stress looks like avoidance- feeling so overwhelmed with the task that you will flake out on the event, procrastinate on it until the very last minute, or just flat out not complete the assignment.

I have been there, and I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a lot of us have been there. Just the other day, I posted my first video on Instagram and I went through 8 videos until I told myself, “Ok Erica, you are posting the next one. I don’t care how bad you think it is, it is going to be fine, and something is better than nothing.”

With constant reminders like this and practicing these things that make us feel uncomfortable, we get better at it, and it still might feel uncomfortable. But knowing that we have done it in the past gives us a reference point to know- It CAN be done.

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