Evaluative Situational Stress
Ahh exams. Part of maintaining my status as a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) is taking the CMPC Exam. Just once. But once is plenty! I have practice with these kind of exams as I also had to take what is called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is equivalent to a Bar Exam for lawyers or the Medical Licensing Exam for physicians. I took the CMPC Exam on March 29, 2021 and unofficially passed. I have to wait for the official results.
It's easy to let anxiety get the best of us with mental skills and knowledge tests, maybe even more so than physical skills as we have to be "in our head" to attend to the thoughts/answers. So can we manage situational anxiety as it tries to take up space where the focused thoughts are needed? Yes!
Keep in mind that nervousness, stress, and anxiety are normal responses to any evaluative situation. So, the goal is not to completely remove the jitters. Look for their message. The message could be fear, worry, excitement, or any number of other messages. Look for yours. Then acknowledge it. "I feel fear about this situation. What if I fail or someone judges me as not good enough?" For some people going with the worst case scenario is helpful. What is the worst that can happen? I have to take the exam again and I'm out some money. For others, breathing through the feeling may work better. Taking deep slow breaths in through your nose while thinking confident thoughts, holding the breath for a few seconds to let confidence settle, then slowly breath out through your mouth letting that anxious feeling go. Go through that a few times prior to the evaluative situation and use it throughout as well. Working on self-talk is yet another approach. Reminding yourself that you have prepared for this moment and that you will do your best are good starting points.
As always, practice is the only way for these skills to take hold and for you to begin learning what works best for you.