Overcoming Test Taking Anxiety

Test or performance anxiety can make you feel like this......with worry and overthinking,  you lose your natural ability to do what you have already mastered. 
If you preform well on practice tests when there is no pressure but lock up, get overwhelmed and begin to spin out of control with worry, anxiety performance coaching may be just the right thing for you. When there is a lot at stake like getting into business, law school, med school, then stress mounts impairing per your ability to focus, concentrate, remember and this results in poor scores, decreased confidence and a feeling of helplessness to overcome it. Like any pressured situation whether it be a test, musical performance, athletic endeavor, learning to manage or eliminate anxiety is the key to achievement. 
How does test or performance anxiety happen? (just to name a few). This cycle illustrates how anxiety becomes the culprit in impairing performance.

  1.  It is learned behavior
  2.  The association of scores, grades become linked to personal self-worth
  3.  Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by the impact of the scores 
  4.  Fear of alienation or criticism from friends, family or self on inability to live up to expectations
  5. Timed tests intensify fear
  6.  Pressures of an audition for dance, music, sports by obtaining a particular score to be a viable candidate for a graduate program or scholarship
  7.  Low self-confidence and self-esteem
  8.  Pressure from perfectionism
  9.  Negative self-talk
With the right guidance and help, this is a very fixable problem! Techniques for performance or test anxiety before and during the test (whatever that test might be) include:

  • Cognitive strategies including thought stopping, reframing and affirmations.
  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • Mental rehearsal
  • Stress management
  • Meditation and/or mindfulness
  • Self-soothing strategies
  • Biofeedback
The practice of proper thinking techniques for positivity, muscle relaxation, mental calm, proper breathing techniques, mental rehearsal, mind clearing tools are standard approaches to help you get yourself feeling and taking control of your mind and body. 


Anxiety, worry, panic and phobias are quite common in society today. In fact, about 6.3 million people have diagnosed phobias. This is a chart of the most common phobias with percentages. The blue link below will be helpful background information about the etiology or origin of phobias, prevalence,  and issues that need to be addressed when confronting a fear.

Click on this link for a detailed overview of more data about Phobia Statistics

There is help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can provide you with the tools you need to manage your anxiety, fear or phobia. Desensitization, mental rehearsal, relaxation, biofeedback and proper breathing and exposure techniques can help you put these worries, fears and anticipatory anxiety behind you. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A Pain Problem with Remedies

IBS is a group of symptoms—including abdominal pain and changes in the pattern of bowel movements without any evidence of underlying damage. You may feel like your intestines are in knots.

What does Medscape say about treating IBS?

Well, here it goes... "Approach Considerations: Management of irritable bowel syndrome consists primarily of providing psychological support and recommending dietary measures. Pharmacologic treatment is adjunctive and should be directed at symptoms. Successful management relies on a strong patient-provider relationship. Reassure the patient that the absence of an organic pathology indicates a normal life expectancy. Emphasize the expected chronicity of symptoms with periodic exacerbations. Teach the patient to identify stressors and to use avoidance techniques."

Treatment Options include: Learning to reduce stress can help improve IBS. With less stress, you may find you have less cramping and pain. Symptoms may include: Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include: Changes in bowel movement patterns. Bloating, diarrhea, constipation and excess gas. Pain the lower belly. You may also find some of these non-medical oriented remedies helpful in managing your symptoms. 

Some options for managing stress includes:

  • taking part in stress reduction and relaxation therapies such as meditation
  • getting counseling and support
  • taking part in regular exercise such as walking or yoga
  • reducing stressful life situations as much as possible
  • getting enough sleep
  • talk therapy
  • hypnotherapy
  • mindfulness
  • biofeedback
  • dietary changes
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation therapies
  • massage

Of course, medical evaluations and treatments are a necessity. There are medicines: probiotics, antibiotics, antidepressants,  antispasmodics, laxatives and other abdominal pain medications can help. I believe the mind and body work together to heal, so let's work on getting the proper alignment. Pain is a signal to pay attention to distress that your body is experiencing. Don't delay in getting checked out. Once you get proper care, you can get relief. 

The Newest Addiction... Social Media

Here's a little quiz to get things started. Do you:

  • Check your email or social media before you get out of bed?
  • Check your email or social media immediately before you go to bed? Or while in bed?
  • Check email or social media while driving or at a stoplight?
  • Check your phone immediately when someone goes to the bathroom? And try to finish by the time they get back without them seeing?
  • Better yet... do you check your phone while YOU are using the bathroom?
  • Feel more anxious, feel like your life could be better, or that you are missing out?
  • Regret the time you just spent on social media?
If you answered yes to at least a few of these, it is quite possible that you are addicted to your phone (and social media). The good news is that you aren't alone. Quite far from it, in fact. Social media addiction is now pervasive. A recent survey among parents and their children revealed some numbers with large implications.

  • 69% of parents and 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly
  • 72% of teens feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages, and other notifications
  • 66% of parents feel their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices
  • 54% of children feel that their parents checked their devices too often
  • 36% of parents feel thet argue with their child on a daily basis about device use
  • 50% of teens feel they are addicted to their mobile devices
  • 27% of parents feel they are addicted to their mobile devices
Source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/03/health/teens-cell-phone-addiction-parents/

One could safely assume from the above statistics that mobile devices are impacting the parent/child relationship. But the impact is also notable for any one considered a 'constant checker'. Bloomberg just released an article describing the significant increase in stress due to social media. In fact, the stress levels of those who are constantly on their phones are much higher (about 20% higher) than those who check their phones moderately. And by the way, those who expressed the highest levels of stress were likely to reference the political landscape on social media. 42% specifically referenced political and cultural considerations as a source of their stress.

These are charged times, where it almost seems like social media is deliberately trying to stress us out. So what do we do? Well... first thing is first.... PUT THE PHONE DOWN! Then, stay tuned for my next blog post on specific techniques to deal with phone addiction.

Thinking and Wellness

If you haven't explored the mindfulness movement, it may be time to do so. A clear mind, an open mind that has a positive and optimistic focus creates happiness and health. Don't just take my word for it. There is a plethora of research and documentation on the benefits of meditation, relaxation training, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, visual imagery for mental rehearsal, music, art and exercise.

However, how we think about things becomes the lens we view everything. Our thoughts and beliefs direct our actions. In all of our lives, it is possible identify or find patterns that lead us to freedom or roadblocks. Unfortunately, doing this without a guide, coach, therapist is VERY difficult. 

One reason to consider this difficulty is to ask yourself the following; Do you ever lose an argument to yourself in your own mind?" I doubt it. If you are interested in finding out, leave the "screen time" and move to "face time" with trusted friends or colleagues. It may be time for a paradigm shift or as I mention to many in our sessions together, an upgraded operating system is needed.  Mindfulness changes the brain in positive ways. See the simplicity, calm and beauty all around you. Be present, thoughtful and observant. Then, feel gratitude. Clear your mind of the clutter. The founder of MBSR Jon Kabat-Zinn has published books, a curriculum and practices to be more mindful. Remember, an empty mind is an open mind. An open mind gives you a sense of calm.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

-Jon Kabat-Zinn Founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Visibility Matters

I was both surprised and delighted to get this notice from Google. WOW.....10,000 hits to our office location. Not only does The Lovett Center have a great building, atmosphere, we have a warm, professional staff, offer many different programs for a number of problems with individual sessions, groups, intensive outpatient services and programs, continuing education programs, services for children and adults and collaboration with other highly regarded professionals and centers. 
Feel free to check out The Lovett Center website to view the clinicians and programs. Click on the link below to view the center website.
The Lovett Center

Happiness: To be or not to be.....

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. How you travel in this world has a lot to do with attitude, optimism and the lens you use to view the world. Let's start with these questions.

  • Are you awake to your own life? 
  • Are you living in the present vs. the past or future? 
  • Are you paying attention & honoring your friendships, love relationships? 
  • As Freud suggested, do you have balance in your work, love and play?
  • What are you doing to enhance your happiness?
  • What are the roadblocks to your happiness?
Take these questions and explore the inner dimensions of thought to understand and engage in thoughts and actions that enhance your happiness. Since life is precious, taking time to evaluate who and what is valuable to you is a good starting place. There is usually a direct correlation of your thankfulness and daily gratitude with happiness. Taking time each day either in the morning to start your day or end your day with a review of things you are grateful for is a good practice.

Researchers tell us that one of the most important elements of a longer life, a healthier existence and recovery from chronic illness, trauma or loss-----are loving supportive relationships. Shakespeare made this a declarative statement......in essence a choice. Do I chose to be happy or not? Why not? 2017 may be a time to break free to find and live a happier life. 
Study happiness, spend time with happy people, seek out activities and engage in experiences that can bring you happiness. One last thought, I doubt happiness will come knowing on your door. You have to go out knocking to find it.  

Link to Presentation below.