End Exam Fear Now! 5 steps to control and dissolve paralysing exam fear


I got a surprising reaction from the audience at a recent event to discuss my book The Savvy Guide to Making More Money. In answer to a question, I simply said "I'm afraid of everything" and for some reason, this was greeted with gasps of disbelief, so I elaborated.

"I'm afraid of failure in business. I'm afraid of not being a good wife, a good sister, a good daughter, a good employer, a good role model to my goddaughter, a good speaker, of everything. I'm literally walking fear".

The audience looked at me with wide eyes - am I not "The Positive Economist"? Yes, but it doesn't mean I am immune to fear. It's simply that I have found ways to not let it debilitate me. So for those students reading this blog who are 

Exam Fear Susan HayesCulleton

worried about exams, let me share what works for me.

As they say: "Embrace the fear... and do it anyway!"
As I told the audience that day, I've long since acknowledged that fear doesn't go away. It's always there, but I've learned to "make friends" with it. I know in my heart and soul that the more I'm afraid of something, the more I'm growing.

This revelation occurred one day that I was telling Mr. O'Donovan, my English teacher at the time, how I was so anxious about an upcoming debate in a competition that he was coaching me through.  "Susan, don't worry about the nerves. Enjoy them!", he said. I thought he was absolutely crazy and clearly didn't understand.

I was wrong. He completely understood and this was such empowering advice!

The fear doesn't get better - but it gets more exciting
Every time I take to the stage and speak, I can get an awful bout of nervousness, but that's my body alerting me to the excitement of pushing out of my comfort zone.

Every time I go into a networking event on my own, I get that incredible urge to just go home. I'm afraid to go through that disconcerting phase of trying to start a conversation with somebody that I don't know in a room where it seems everybody else are lifelong friends.

However, I acknowledge that fear and silently calm myself by saying that feeling just lasts a couple of seconds. Just work through it and who knows what opportunities await? Every time somebody starts a sentence with "I've read your book and....", I feel myself bracing in anticipation of a negative critique. Instead of trying to fight off that feeling, I've learned to associate it with a wave of gratitude that I've had the privilege to write three books and reach more people than I could in person. In fact, I've become proficient at enjoying fear and nerves.

5 Steps

1. Recognise there's an excellent reason that you are afraid
On a very personal basis, the reason that I'm afraid of not being a good wife, sister, daughter, friend, etc., is because I care very very deeply about the people in my family and friend circle. I love them to bits and beyond words. I want to do all I can to support them and bring happiness into their lives. That's a good thing, isn't it? It is, if I recognise this and don't allow the fear to turn into anxiety that robs these relationships of their joy.

2. A useful visualisation to defang fear
I sometimes visualise setting the fear beside me so that I don't let it reside within. This might be a strange idea, but it works for me. In my own head, I acknowledge that it's there, but it's held at arms length and I replace the paralysis that fear can impose by laser-like focus on what I need to do.

3. Concentrate on the task at hand
I take responsibility for my emotions and take back control. I put all of my concentration on the task at hand. If I'm giving a speech, I think of the points I want to make. If I'm at a networking event, I look for a person who is also standing on their own. If somebody wants to tell me that they've read my book, I listen very carefully to what they have to say about it and just use my energy to engage fully in the situation.

4. You've been through this before - you can do it again
If I need some extra ammunition, I always think back to a time that I felt the same way and it worked out well. I run through memories of a time that people came up to me after a presentation and told me how it changed their thinking, their business or their lives.

I delve into the bank of countless times I have met a hugely significant business contact at an event that changed the course of the company. (As a case in point, this is how I met Monica and that's how the #SavvyTeenAcademy came to be).

I think back to all of the highly treasured e-mails I have from readers who tell me how the books transformed their finances. I ground myself with this foundation and this propels me to keep going.

5. "What's the worst that can happen?"
I also have a killer weapon in my armoury and that is the question "what's the worst that can happen?" Let's go through some of these scenarios.

I give a practical, story-filled, value-adding presentation (because I always, without exception and every single time make sure they are full of these attributes) and the audience simply claps politely at the end. I think I could handle that.

I go to an event and nobody speaks to me at all. Well in that case, I will just stand by the coffee area and people watch.
If somebody tells me they didn't like the book, then I can gain some insights for them for the next time.

If you realise that you can handle the worst-case-scenario, then you are bullet proof!

And "what's the best that can happen"?
The final thing I do is imagine the sheer joy of everything going right! My mother used to always reply to my worries of "What if it goes wrong?" with "What if it goes right?" I replace fearful thoughts with aspirations. Imagine if I say something at this speaking event, and it marks a turning point in somebody's life who is struggling? Imagine if I meet a new client at this networking breakfast? Imagine if somebody creates a whole new income stream for their household, after they were inspired by the practical strategies in my book?!! Wouldn't it be such a waste if I turned back from any of these experiences now....

In summary, if you look towards the exams in the coming weeks, or any other situation in your life, with a heavy heart, then I suggest the following;
(a) Acknowledge that these are human emotions and completely normal.
(b) Take control: you can do something about these feelings, you don't need to be a powerless victim.
(c) Focus, with absolute clarity, on the task at hand.
(d) Remember a time that you felt like this before and worked through it to a successful outcome.
(e) Develop a strategy that would enable you to get through or benefit from the worst case scenario.
(f) Imagine how amazing you would feel if everything went superbly well.
(g) Celebrate your success!

The #SavvyTeenAcademy Team


What is Savvy Teen Academy?

SavvyTeenAcademy is a five-day, Monday to Friday, summer camp for teenagers about to enter 5th or 6th year (or repeating)

Teenagers can have big dreams and aspirations, but can be at a loss where to start, or think they are too shy to go after what they want. They also have to juggle expectations from parents and teachers, a demanding study schedule as well as navigating intense friendships and peer relationships.

SavvyTeenAcademy offers a caring environment for turbo-charged, hands-on learning. It will be an intense week of transformation, with lots of fun and new friendships.

After five days at SavvyTeenAcademy, students will be armed with a panoply of practical tools they will be able to use in many life situations: passing exams, applying for jobs, networking and confidently taking their life in the best direction.

SavvyTeenAcademy is NOT a traditional course based on the school curriculum.

What will students learn at SavvyTeenAcademy

Find out more - Dates and Programmes page