Resources available at Parkland to help cope with test anxiety

Sierra Benson

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus Parkland student Robert Johnston rests his head while waiting to get a massage in the Comfort/Meditation Room, located in Student Life, on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.

Photo by Zonghui Li | The Prospectus
Parkland student Robert Johnston rests his head while waiting to get a massage in the Comfort/Meditation Room, located in Student Life, on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015.

Midterms are upon us and with it comes test anxiety. For those feeling that gut-wrenching pressure, never fear. There are resources available online or at Parkland that may help during this time.

The Wellness Center as well as counseling and advising are free to students and offer a lot of useful information.

Many students are not aware of the benefits provided by the Wellness Center, located in Student Life. Next to their office is a secluded room with two reclining chairs, a massage chair, CD player, and an assortment of tea. There is information on managing your time, breathing techniques, and even a guided script to help anyone practice meditation. All of these tools are beneficial in reducing stress.

Sara Estock is the wellness coordinator and says while regular meditation could help clear those persistent worrying thoughts, it’s sometimes difficult to practice.

“Half of the problem, I think, with people who try to meditate is that they don’t practice it long enough so they don’t really see the effects of it,” Estock said.

The previous wellness coordinator, June Burch, was certified to give 10-minute massages to students feeling tense. Since Estock is not certified in massage therapy she has a different plan. “What I’m trying to do is coordinate with our massage therapy program for the spring semester because they have to get those hours in of practice,” she said.

People enjoyed the massage aspect of the Wellness Center when Burch was around so it could possibly be coming back in the spring.

No appointments are necessary at the Wellness Center so anyone can walk in at any time to take a break and reduce their stress.

Estock encourages more students to take advantage of the Wellness Center.

“This room is so underutilized, I think that students who are looking for a quieter place should just come and sit down and relax for a little while,” she said.

There is also free tea to choose from if students or faculty bring a mug.

Of course if any students are suffering with any form of anxiety, not just test anxiety, they can always visit counseling and advising. The personal counseling is separate from academic advising.

Students can walk in and do what is called an intake. A page needs to be filled out, and a counselor is assigned based on what kind of issues the student is struggling with. It is completely confidential and nothing said is put on record.

Counselor Jennifer Klatsky says, “Lots of anxiety is normal. It’s normal to be anxious about a test. A certain amount of that adrenaline rush is going to help you perform better…Anxiety that interferes with daily functioning is where you draw the line.”

Klatsky not only has a background in counseling but also a health degree and says there are all kinds of ways to treat symptoms of anxiety. While many may benefit from medication, Parkland counselors do not prescribe medication to students.

Instead Klatsky suggests some other simple coping techniques such as taking a break or eating to help improve your mood.

Most students tend to skip out on meals so keeping a bag of nuts in the car, grabbing an apple, or having some string cheese for the morning can provide more energy throughout the day. Boiling a bunch of eggs and peeling them is a good idea too, she said.

Getting enough sleep is also a big issue for students who are attending school and working. “Sometimes the anxiety itself interferes with sleep, some people sleep too much, some people fall asleep and wake up [too early]. It has lots of those kinds of repercussions,” Klatsky said.

Physical exercise is important to relax those muscles. If the muscles are relaxed you can sleep or function better in general.

“There’s a tremendous amount of research that shows physical exercise is as effective as, if not more than, traditional counseling and medication. For some people a combination of those things is fabulous,” Klatsky said.

She recommends walking around the school during a break between classes or clenching fists every so often. If fingernails dig into the skin, use a stress ball.

Above all, breathing is extremely important. A soothing voice, music, or guided imagery should calm the nerves. Often people who have anxiety feel out of control, their heart races, their body sweats, sometimes there are panic attacks that literally take the breath away. Breathing gives back control to the person.

For more information on how to deal with an anxiety disorder or be mentally as well as physically healthier visit www.studenthealth101.com.