Guided imagery can be used as a tool for relaxation in stressful situations; it can help you relax and visualize how you wish to take the examination. Visualizing success can increase your confidence.
Here is how you can use guided imagery relaxation techniques to tackle your exam stress:
1. Find a setting in your house where you are free of distractions. Sit down comfortably, in a relaxed pose. Keep your body open; rest your hands on your lap or by your sides; uncross your legs. Let your body relax. Take a deep breath... hold it for a moment and exhale... inhale deeply... pause... exhale fully. Make sure you are breathing naturally. You may notice that with each breath, you become more and more relaxed.
If you have anxious thoughts, observe them and let them be. Don't try to suppress them; they usually settle down once a level of optimal relaxation has been achieved.
2. Pick a spot in the room for your eyes to focus on. Focus on that spot or object for a few moments and let the focus go soft. Close your eyes when you are done.
3. Pay attention to your body: where can you feel the tension? In your shoulders, your face, your back, your legs, your stomach, or your hands?
4. Focus your attention on your shoulders. Observe how they relax as you do so. Feel the muscles loosening, and your shoulders easing. Let your lower jaw relax, allowing space between your upper and lower teeth. You may notice, gradually, that your face is relaxed as well. Focus on your neck; visualize letting the tension drop as you relax it. Let this relaxed state flow down your spine. As you begin to pay attention to your breathing, you become aware of its rhythm. Let go of the tension in your chest with each breath you take; feel the stomach muscles calming down. Focus on your hands. Open and close them a few times. Shake and wiggle your fingers, and let your hands go limp.
5. Next, scan your body for other areas that may be holding some tension. Breathing in, feel yourself relax; breathing out, let the tension go out of your body. You may notice your body relaxing with every breath you take. Relax each area.
6. Now, your entire body feels relaxed. You may feel centered. Now, you begin visualizing the process of taking the exam.
7. Imagine yourself on the morning of the exam. How are you feeling? Are you feeling excited about taking the exam? Is there a part of you that is nervous when you think about how the exam may go? Imagine yourself calmly walking into the examination hall. Tell yourself, "When I get to my seat, I will focus on the exam and not on my anxiety."
Imagine yourelf sitting in your chair as you take note of your surroundings in a calm fashion. As you do this, visualize the surroundings in a way that is as close to reality as possible. If you feel anxious, take a deep breath and give yourself an affirmation: "I am capable of handling this."
7. Visualize yourself going through the question paper confidently. As you scan the paper, you dicover that you already know something about each question; you feel confident about answering it. You tell yourelf, "I will stay calm and not allow my anxiety to take over. I have done well in exams earlier, and there is no reason I shouldn't do well today. I am ready for this challenge."
8. Take a deep breath. Exhale. You can feel your body relax, and your mind becoming calm. You are telling your mind to focus on the task at hand. You see yourself writing quickly, and you are able to answer the questions effortlessly.
9. Now, imagine yourself as you finish the exam—you have finished answering the questions and are calmly putting away your paper and pen. You feel confident about your perfomance.
Once you complete the entire visualization process, you feel more prepared, mentally, to take the exam. Practicing this technique over a period of time helps you reduce your exam anxiety, and tackle exams in a more calm and confident manner.
J. T. Lusk, “30 Scripts for Relaxation, Imagery and Inner Healing, Vol. 1,” Whole Person Associates, Minnesota, 1992.
Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Academic studying and the development of personal skill: A self-regulatory perspective. Educational Psychologist, 33, 73-86.