There is little doubt that many of us feel additional stress and anxiety despite being experts on optimal preventative protocols to ward off Coronavirus. As we deal with this pandemic, student’s lives especially, are strewn into the unknown: The College Board is canceling SAT locations. High schools are closing. Colleges such as Harvard, Berkeley, and New York Law School, are holding classes virtually and their students are being sent home. Throw into the mix ‘social distancing’ and a general pre-lockdown mentality a’la Italy and China, and anyone of us can understandably feel dysregulated, sad, and isolated.
As we slide in our new normal, here are my top 7 recommendations that any student can integrate to counter this chaos while training their mindset for an upcoming high-stakes exam such as the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, or USMLE. Try these tools or experiences each day of the week, then carry it forward until test day!
- Heart Breathing for Calm and Focus
HeartMath offers a breathing technology tool that empowers individuals to a more calm and embodied experience. This heart-focused breathing is a conscious ‘meditation’ and promotes breathing a little more deeply than normal. Your aim to keep your breathing smooth, unforced, and comfortable to establish a natural rhythm. We recommend you use Heartmath breathing when you want to feel more engaged and grounded. It helps to regulate your emotions and physical response to stress, anxiety, and other unwanted emotions that negatively impact your performance. It is an effective tool to regulate your emotions, it’s fast, and you can do it anywhere! Learn it now, so when headed into your admissions test, you can enter feeling grounded and ready to confidently confront every standardized test question that lies ahead. Here are the directions:
- Stand or sit comfortably facing forward.
- Find a focal point in front of you.
- Put your hand on your heart.
- Focus on your breathing and imagine that each inhale and exhale is emanating from your heart.
- Take 5 – 6 seconds, for each inhaled and exhaled breath.
- Do this for up to 5 minutes when not in a test.
- Use when needing extra grounding and wanting to stay present.
HeartMath breathing for just a few seconds will make a difference.
2. Do a Creative Activity, Learn a New Skill
Make music or art! Learn to knit, a new language, or to garden! We’ll be offering more opportunities to take our mindful speed reading workshop, MindFLow, as students are home and will benefit from this valuable skill in school and on tests.
The benefit of learning new things you’re excited about is that you move out of the monkey mind, and into a zone. Call it a mini-vacation as you shed judgement, fear and Corona speculation! Creativity sharpens parts of your mind that may not get used as often – – thus creating new neural pathways great for critical thinking and problem solving required on standardized tests.
3. Spend Time in Nature
Fresh air, sunlight, and communing with foliage and wildlife – – including squirrels – – are great for the spirit and are Covid19-free. Even if you wind up quarinteened or practicing social distancing you can get out in nature, if only your backyard, take some time to watch the clouds and bond with Mother Nature. Priceless! Clearing your mind this way and refreshing physically primes you for best cognition, and top performance when you need to be present and focused.
4. Reach out to Others through Video Conferencing and Letter Writing
If you can’t ‘be’ with friends in person, you can set up dates to co-work, co-study and just connect up online. Zoom. WhatsApp. Skype. There are a host of other programs to help reduce isolation and be with the folks you care about most. I made scheduling with colleagues and students easy by creating a sign up through Calendly.
And think about how wonderful it would be to revive letter writing! It’s a lost art that merits being resurrected, but how does this help on tests? Human beings are social, and by connecting with other people, we get out of our own head and away from the study/work spiral. Whether by conferencing or letters… don’t commiserate that all the toilet paper is sold out at the supermarket! We recommend erring on the side of being grateful.
5. Identify and Listen to the Music that Helps you Achieve your Desired State!
Need more energy or want to feel happier? Identify which singer, music genre or band gets you there. Need to relax and focus? Listen to our Full Potential Audio binaural beat 30-minute track while meditating or doing homework, here. Music has the amazing potential to transport us emotionally, and that might be exactly what you would benefit from, right now.
6. Begin a Mindful Meditation Practice
When there are distractions and outside influences that rattle your brain, the practice of being present and focused helps in whatever situation you find yourself in. Need a quick start?
Set aside time, between 2 – 10 minutes, where you can sit comfortably. With your eyes either looking at an object (i.e., a candle flame, the clouds, your hands…anything!) focus on the in and out of your breath. As your mind wanders, as it will, refocus back on your breathing.
Like prayer, meditation is a process/practice through which you do the ‘work’ and the effect exceeds the minutes doing it. The benefits are enduring. You’ll find you are more present more of the time, which is optimal during a pandemic, high-stakes test or anytime you need to feel at peace and calm.
7. Back to Basics: Eating Well and Sleeping!
These two gems require little explanation as these are the backbone of optimal health, whether it’s during an epidemic or any personal challenge. Stay away from processed food and eat healthy seasonal, organic, and local food. Enjoy the delicious cuties and oranges of the season!
Sleep 7-8 hours a night or whatever is your regular number of hours you need to feel focused and refreshed the next day. You may become sluggish when you over or under sleep.
Any and all of these protocols can set up all of us – – and any student – – for success: ready to confront our surreal reality, confidently answer multiple questions, and achieving your goal of admission to your dream school.