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      Take the Stress Out of Tests!  11 Ways to Manage Test Anxiety     Society places a huge emphasis on the importance of tests in school. “You better pass your reading test or you’ll fall behind in 2nd grade.” “You better ace your SATs or you’ll never get into college.” “You better pass The Bar or else you’ll never have a career and will probably end up living under a bridge - but no pressure!” It’s no wonder that millions of students deal with at least some anxiety revolving around tests; but for some students, test anxiety is debilitating, preventing them from being able to show their true knowledge and capabilities.    How does test anxiety impact a student?    Anxiety is our body’s natural response to things we view as threats. Students with test anxiety have an extreme fear of performing poorly on tests, causing them to view exams as threatening. This fear impacts them physically, mentally, and emotionally. As symptoms increase in one of those areas, they tend to get worse in the other two. One thought of, “I know I’m going to fail,” can turn into feeling panicked, nauseous, faint, and short of breath – making test-taking unbearable. If students don’t learn ways to successfully manage test anxiety early on, it can damper their performance during tests throughout their teen and adult lives.   If you are a parent or teacher, here are some ways to help students get a hold on test anxiety:    1. Put tests in perspective    If you suspect your student has anxiety, ask them what they’re afraid of. You will likely find that their fears revolve around a dread of failure or feelings of inadequacy. As an adult, you have a more realistic understanding of the level of influence that tests do and don’t have on your life. Sure, there are high stakes exams out there, but you know that in a few years their test scores won’t be impacting their long-term life success. Share your insight and remind them that a test does not have the power to define their worth, potential, or future.      2. Amp up affirmations   Positive affirmations are encouraging thoughts people say to themselves that help them believe in their ability to succeed. Have your student come up with positive affirmations to replace their negative thoughts about testing. In time, repeating these affirmations will help them reverse negative thought patterns that fuel their anxiety.    Example :   Replace , “I’m scared that I won’t remember how to multiply,”  with , “I know how to multiply and I’m going to do great.”   Replace , “I know I’m going to fail AP History,”  with , “I’ll study and try my best.”   Replace , “I’ll never pass the MCAT – my career is doomed,”  with , “I’ve studied just as hard as everyone else and I can do this. Watch out med school, here I come!”   3. Teach muscle relaxation   When we get anxious, our muscles naturally clench up. Teaching relaxation techniques can help students calm their body’s response to anxiety, in turn reducing their emotional distress. One exercise is to clench your fists for 5 seconds, then release them while picturing every muscle in your body letting go of any tension.      4. Make breathing an art form   Another effective tool in reducing anxiety is breathing exercises. Anxiety tends to shorten our breath, fueling the sense of panic that tests can bring on. Have students practice their breathing, focusing on deep inhales and slow exhales.     5. Visualize success   There are two types of visualization that you can teach your students to help them manage test anxiety. First, they can close their eyes and envision a safe, calming place every time they start feeling tense. Second, they can think back on a time they did well on a test and then picture themselves doing great on the upcoming test.      6. Seat strategically   Educators, seat your highly anxious students with low anxiety students. When they see their classmates modeling healthy study habits and a relaxed attitude around test prep, it can gradually help them view tests as less threatening. This also goes for parents; if you’re having kids over for study group, don’t only invite the over-achievers. Make sure to invite peers who are less prone to stress or who have overcome test anxiety themselves to influence the tone of the group.      7. Create a culture of calm   “Be positive” – it’s more than just a blood type, it’s a way of life. Anxiety is infectious, so be careful not to show lots of anxiety around your students’ test performance. If you’re a parent of a child who is excelling and exceeding the performance of others, express pride but try not to suggest any expectation for them to outperform anyone else. Any anxieties or pressures that you convey will likely rub off on them, so do your best to create a positive, supportive, and optimistic environment around testing. Smile and show your sense of humor. Your demeanor during testing will signal to your students that this is not a threatening situation.       For more advice on managing your own anxiety, view our blog on how to STOP Anxiety in its Tracks       8. Prioritize prep work   Students feel much better about test taking if they feel prepared and knowledgeable on the material. Whether you are a teacher or parent, help your students feel prepared by:      Teaching test taking strategies such as skipping difficult questions and coming back to them at the end    Explaining different test formats    Helping them create a study plan to make them feel prepared    Allowing plenty of review time to give students opportunities to ask questions and refresh their memory     9. Assign fun   Although test preparation plays a critical role in alleviating test anxiety, students with test anxiety often burn themselves out with studying before testing even begins.  Emphasize to your students that while studying and homework are important for their success, time for fun, relaxation, and recreation are also vital for them to perform at their best.     10. Praise properly    Students with anxiety often grasp the material but draw a blank when the test is in front of them. This is often a result of their fear of incompetency toward testing. You can reduce the likelihood of them freezing up by boosting their confidence leading up to the test. Make sure to praise them for more than just mastery of a subject – encourage students’ progress and efforts before they’ve got a lesson down.     Examples :   “See! You’re doing great with the first two steps of long division. You’ll have the rest down in no time.”  “You’re really making progress on your review worksheets. You’re on the right track to be well-prepared for the mid-term.”    For more tips on improving your child’s attitude toward learning, check out our blog on Fostering a Growth Mindset        11. Visit a specialists   Every parent wants school to be an enriching experience for their child. If anxiety is holding your child back from getting the most out of their education, they may qualify for accommodations including additional breaks or extended testing times. Our specialists at Variations Psychology can determine the correct diagnosis for your child, assist you in securing accommodations at for school tests and high stakes exams, and give your child strategies to cope with anxiety symptoms.       
	 CLick here to find a specialists that's right for you 
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              The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the highlighted topic. For a full consultation, assessment, and personalized treatment plan, schedule an appointment  with one of our specialists.     More about Variations Psychology   Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.  Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).  See our   Specialists   page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you..  Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.      
  
       References:   TEST ANXIETY: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHERS https://www.education.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/TestAnxiety.pdf  Blank, H. Cascardi, M. (2016). Overcoming Test Anxiety: A High School Student’s Perspective And Solutions. Retrieved online: https://www.anxiety.org/high-school-students-can-overcome-test-anxiety  How Teachers Can Help Students Cope with Test Anxiety (2017)  blog.edmentum.com/how-teachers-can-help-students-cope-test-anxiety    How to Cite This Blog Article:   Shinn, M.M. (2018). Take the Stress Out of Tests! 11 Ways to Manage Test Anxiety.    Psychologically Speaking . [Variations Psychology blog post].  Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/take-the-stress-out-of-tests-11-ways-to-manage-test-anxiety

Take the Stress Out of Tests!
11 Ways to Manage Test Anxiety

Though no obituary has ever read, “Cause of Death: Flunking the SAT,” the stress of high-stakes testing can feel make a student feel like they are in a life or death situation. Without effective coping skills, test anxiety can negatively  impact students’ physical, emotional, and mental health. For tips on helping students manage test anxiety, check out this week’s blog.

     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


      8 Tips to Create a Mentally Healthy Classroom   Back-to-school is a hectic time for teachers, but it’s also very exciting. The new year offers a fresh start to get to know each student and create a personalized learning environment to help them grow. With this excitement comes both challenge and responsibility – challenge in learning the unique needs of each child, and responsibility for tailoring teaching methods to empower every student toward success. But learning isn’t one-size-fits-all, and it can be difficult for teachers to know how to respond to the varying needs of each of students.  So what can teachers do to support the mental health needs of their students?   Follow these 8 tips to support students through common learning & mental health obstacles:    1. Limit Distractions   Children with challenges related to motivation, attention, or hyperactivity may all have trouble staying focused in class. Teachers can help students remain focused by establishing eye contact, seating them strategically to keep them on task, and keeping most critical thinking tasks in the morning.  Teachers can also download this   FOCUS skills handout,   developed by   Dr. Marta M. Shinn  , with tips to support on task behaviors in school and at home.   2. Break it up   Breaking up big tasks can make classwork feel less overwhelming and more manageable for students with anxiety, depression, ADHD, motivation issues, and autism spectrum disorder. Instead of giving them a 30-page reading assignment to complete by the end of the week, assign 6 pages per night that will be reviewed the next day. Consider giving frequent, shorter quizzes rather than limiting testing to one or two high stakes exams.   3. Teach emotional regulation   Many mental health issues have to do with a person’s lack of healthy coping skills to process difficult emotions. This is often true for children with anxiety, depression, or self-harming behaviors. By teaching students healthy coping skills to manage their feelings, you can help them reduce negative symptoms so they can focus on learning.  Try the following strategies:    Teach breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques    Have the class write positive affirmations about themselves and what they will accomplish this school year    Don’t let students out of tasks that intimidate them – instead, talk to them about ways they can cope with their fears     4. Ignite their interest    You may not be able to make certain subjects easier for students, but you can make them more interesting. This can be especially engaging for unmotivated students or children with autism. Get to know your students’ interests and try to integrate them into your lessons wherever possible, especially on tasks they find difficult or overwhelming.   Examples:   If you have a student with autism that has a fixation on the Lakers, create word problems that incorporate basketball player names.  If you have a student who is unmotivated in English but loves doing ballet, encourage her to write her paper on what dance means to her.   5. Create a uniform front   Students achieve the greatest success when they feel supported by teachers, parents, and counselors. It can be tough to build relationships with every student’s family, but try to periodically check in with parents to discuss what strategies do and don’t work in helping their child learn.   6. Offer Predictability    Many learning disorders and mental health conditions benefit from predictability. Let your students know exactly what they can expect to do in class each day. Offer 10, 5, and 1-minute transition warnings to prepare children to move to the next task. List daily plans and lesson components on the board so students know what to expect. Stick to consistent, predictable routines and give plenty of warning when the routine will be altered.   Example:  “James, next Monday I will be visiting my grandmother, so  you are going to have a substitute teacher that day.”   7. Choose positivity over punishment    Though this can be difficult with students who are especially disruptive, do your best to use positive reinforcement more often than punishment. While there is a place for consequences, try to ignore mildly disruptive behaviors and make sure to praise students when they are on task, well-behaved, and completing work on time. Focusing on positive reinforcement will not only increase desirable behaviors in students with ADHD, behavioral issues, and autism, but it will also boost confidence in students struggling with depression, anxiety, and self-harm.   8. Emphasize Always   Students will only feel comfortable being honest with you if they feel you won’t respond with anxiety, shock, or judgement. When a student opens up to you about mental health challenges, build trust by validating their feelings, expressing understanding, and working with them to find healthy ways to cope.   Example : “I’m glad you felt comfortable coming to me about your depression and how it’s been affecting your school work. I understand how difficult middle school can be and I am always here to listen as you work through this. Can we visit the school counselor to discuss some ways to help you when you’re feeling depressed?”   9. Check out these resources   The following handouts, developed by   Clinical & Educational Psychologist Dr. Marta M. Shinn  , were designed to help educators understand the best ways to support students with common mental health issues. Check them out for detailed tips on supporting students with each specific diagnosis:    Strategies to Supporting Students with ADHD      Strategies to Supporting Students with Anxiety      Strategies to Supporting Students with Autism      Strategies to Supporting Students with Depression      Strategies to Supporting Students with Non-Suicidal Self-Injury      Strategies to Supporting Students who are Unmotivated     Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D. , is a Psychologist, Research Scientist, and nationally recognized speaker on topics related to clinical child psychology and educational psychology. Dr. Shinn has spoken at several schools and universities to empower educators in policies and methods that promote their students’ mental health.    If you are interested in having Dr. Shinn speak at your school or institution, learn more by clicking here.     If you are a teacher seeking a counselor to refer your students to, you can refer to your school-based counselor or to a community counselor such as the child therapists at Variations Psychology.      To learn more about our child psychology specialists, click here.        Subscribe to our blog for a weekly article on topics that affect your life:         
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              The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the highlighted topic. For a full consultation, assessment, and personalized treatment plan, schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.   More about Variations Psychology   Variations Psychology is a group practice specializing in Child and Family Psychology.  Our specialists provide therapy to infants, children, adolescents, and adults to help them overcome the many challenges they may face throughout the lifespan of a family. We also conduct diagnostic testing of child and adult conditions that may impact the family’s mental health and development (e.g. ADHD, Autism Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disorders, college entrance exams).  See our   Specialists   page to select the specialist that best suits your need, or simply give us a call and we will guide you..  Variations Psychology is located in Newport Beach, CA and provides counseling to residents throughout Orange County and its surrounding areas including Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Irvine, Shady Canyon, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Coto de Caza, Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Yorba Linda, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Pelican Hill, Crystal Cove, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, Seal Beach, and more.      
  
       References:   Alberta Education (2001). Teaching Students with Mental Health Disorders.  British Columbia Ministry of Education . Retrieved online: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/kindergarten-to-grade-12/teach/teaching-tools/inclusive/mental-health-disorders-vol2.pdf  Anxietybc.com (2018). Retrieved online: https://www.anxietybc.com/educators  Bubrick, K. Goodman, J., Whitlock, J. Non-Suicidal Self-Injury in Schools: Developing and Implementing School Protocol.  Cornell University.  http://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/documents/schools.pdf   C8 Sciences. (2014). C8 Sciences: Helping Teachers Recognize the Symptoms of ADHD in their Students. Retrieved online: https://www.c8sciences.com/symptoms-of-adhd-in-students-tips-for-teachers/  Child Autism Parent Café. (2015). Supporting Students with Autism: 10 Ideas for Inclusive Classrooms. Retrieved online: http://www.child-autism-parent-cafe.com/supporting-students-with-autism.html  Crundwell, M.A. & Killu, K. (2010). Responding to a Student’s Depression.  Interventions that Work.  Vol. 68, No. 2, pp. 46-51   Cuncic, A. (2018). How to Teach Students with an Anxiety Disorder. Verywellmind.org. Retrieved online: https://www.verywellmind.com/teaching-students-with-sad-3024340  Ehmke, R. Anxiety in the Classroom: What it looks like and why it’s often mistaken for something else. (2018). Childmind.org. Retrieved online: https://childmind.org/article/classroom-anxiety-in-children/  Gavin, M. L. (2016) What Teachers Should Know. Retrieved online: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/depression-factsheet.html  GlobalAutismProject.org (2015). What is autism?  Global Autism Project . Retrieved online:  https://www.globalautismproject.org/about-autism/?gclid=CjwKCAjw0ujYBRBDEiwAn7BKt5dJ3ndm1t8-e4mzQEGXvMgd5lzZSo4CaK6yEdkGHYXRgOEXVRM6fBoClFQQAvD_BwE  Hurst, M. (2018). Teenagers with Autism: Symptoms, Treatment, and Help.  CRCHealth . Retrieved online: https://www.crchealth.com/troubled-teenagers/autism-in-teenagers/   Jean, S. (2014). Back to School: Identifying Signs of Depression and Anxiety in College Students. Westbridge.org. Retrieved online: https://www.westbridge.org/identifying-depression-anxiety-college-students/  McCormac, M.E. (2016). Address Student Anxiety.  American School Counselor Association . Retrieved online: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/magazine/blogs/september-october-2016/address-student-anxiety  Preyde, M., Parekh, S., & Heintzman, J. (2018). Youths’ Experiences of School Re-Integration Following Psychiatric Hospitalization.  Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ,  27 (1), 22–32.   Psych 4 Schools (2018). Unmotivated and Disengaged.  Psych4schools.com.au  Retrieved online: https://www.psych4schools.com.au/free-resources/unmotivated-disengaged/   RaisingChildrenNetwork.net.au (2018). Signs of autism spectrum disorder in older children and  teenagers.  Raising Children Network.  Retrieved online: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/autism_spectrum_disorder_signs_teenagers.html  Russell, K.R. Hartung, S. Q. (2015) Identifying the Signs of Self-Harm in Students.  NASN School Nurse  Vol 31, Issue 2, pp. 121 – 124  Selekman, M.D.  (2010). Helping Self-Harming Students.  Health and Learning.  Vol 67 No 4 pp. 48-53. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/dec09/vol67/num04/Helping_Self-Harming_Students.aspx  Smith, M. Segal, J. Hutman, T. (2018). Helping your child with autism thrive.  Helpguide.org.  Retrieved online. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/helping-your-child-with-autism-thrive.htm  Smith, M. Segal, J. (2018). Teaching Students with ADHD.  Helpguide.org.  Retrieved online. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/teaching-students-with-adhd-attention-deficit-disorder.htm  Shinn, M. (2016). Dealing with Feelings Study. FOCUS handout   Shore, K. (2018). The Unmotivated Student.  Education World.  Retrieved online: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/shore/shore060.shtml  Stough, L.M., Baker, L. (1999. Identifying Depression in Students with Mental Retardation.  Teaching Exceptional Children.  Vol 31, issue 4. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/004005999903100411?journalCode=tcxa   How to Cite This Blog Article:   Shinn, M.M. (2018). 8 Tips to Create a Mentally Healthy Classroom.   Psychologically Speaking .   [Variations Psychology blog post].  Retrieved from https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/8-tips-to-create-a-mentally-healthy-classroom

8 Tips to Create a Mentally Healthy Classroom

It’s common for teachers to have students with challenges that impact their learning such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, and depression just to name a few. With so many different obstacles, what can teachers do to ensure their classroom supports the needs of all of their students? Our Specialists at Variations Psychology compiled 8 classroom strategies for teachers to use to support the mental health of every student. Check it out before you head back-to-school!