People, whether adults, teenagers or children, who are suffering from exam anxiety usually come to see me because they are exceedingly anxious about upcoming exams and can’t get previous negative events / experience out of their minds.
Last week I promised to give you an idea of the sort of thing that I might do in a one-to-one hypnotherapy session.
So what might I do in the session?
The first thing I normally do is to neutralise the memory of any previous upsetting exam experience. Obviously it’s impossible to completely forget what happened because reminders are all around us but we can take the sting out of the memory so it no longer affects us in a negative way.
How we store memories in the first place
When we store memories we do it in a mixture of mental images, thoughts and words plus associated feelings. The balance of this varies from person to person … some people may see mental pictures very vividly whereas others may be more aware of the feelings they experienced and yet others may be more aware of the thoughts and words that they were saying to themselves at the time. Mostly there is a mixture of each of these. Additionally, and pretty obviously, we normally remember incidents in the sequence they occurred … from the beginning to the middle to the end.
An effective way to neutralise persistent anxious memories
We can ‘play around’ with the different aspects of the memory. For example we can get them to enlarge or minimise mental images, we can speed up memory sequences or slow them down, and we can run them backwards or forwards as though they were watching a film on fast forward or rewind.
We can use humour … which works particularly well with children … to take the fear out of the image by turning the memory into a cartoon and/or getting them to imagine people’s faces in a variety of colours. An invigilator looks far less scary if their face is green with yellow spots for example or ‘the swats’ in the class look far less intimidating if they have pink bunny ears!
There are so many variations on this particular activity that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. Suffice to say that all of this contributes to breaking up the encoded memory and taking the strength out of the fear, and more often than not’ actually letting it disappear altogether!
So having dealt with existing fears it’s then important to build a new mental experience so that from now on they feel empowered and full of calm and confidence.
So, how do we build this new experience?
1. By guiding them into a relaxing state of hypnosis and giving direct suggestions for calm, confidence and excellent recall
In this relaxed and calm state of mind people become particularly receptive to positive suggestion just as long as the suggestions are what they actually want. Normally people want to feel very calm, think very clearly and be in a state of alert focus where they have excellent recall of the relevant facts.
2. Linking positive suggestions to specific triggers
I always add in suggestions for reading the question carefully, focusing on the main points of the answer and making brief notes before they even begin to write their answer. I give them lots of specific calm and confident suggestions associated with certain key triggers such as ‘as soon as you walk into the exam room you feel a sense of steady calm’ and ‘as soon as you open the exam paper you will notice a sense of alert focus coming over your mind’ . A whole series of links and associations will be made to anything that the client has told me are important for them.
Someone told me recently that she ‘freaked out’ immediately she saw ‘hordes of students’ in the vast exam room. In this case I made the suggestion to her that ‘in a rather interesting and surprising way you will find that you will be reassured by the presence of other people in the room … in fact, the more people there are, the more reassured you will feel’.
Clearly you wouldn’t make that suggestion to someone going in for an individual oral exam!
3. Positive visualisation of success
Then I get them to visualise themselves actually being in the exam room looking and feeling completely cool, calm and collected. In the state of hypnosis this can seem incredibly real. These feelings get stored inside and re-emerge naturally when it comes to the exam itself.
Personally I will always record this part of the session for them so they have the recording at home for on-going support. The more they listen to this, the more effective the results will be. I love it when they email me and tell me how very calm they were and how they managed to get excellent results!
Overcome exam nerves
If you can’t attend in person for a session, you can always get one of my pre-recorded hypnosis downloads or CDs. Obviously they are not personalised but they are written and recorded in such a way that when you listen you get the feeling that it is just for you … you fit your own individual thoughts and feelings into the listening experience. Why not try listening to a sample right now?