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2011年1月23日 (日)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:試験本番の緊張 /東京

Kaleidoscope of the Heart: How to relax in exam rooms
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:試験本番の緊張 /東京

Exam season has begun.

Since I hold duties at both a university and a hospital, I can be found both raising students tensions by yelling out orders like "Please close your books!" when I supervise exams at the university, and I can also be found trying to soothe young people at the hospital who have tests coming up, saying "Let's just take it easy." Though I feel like my actions contradict themselves, I tell myself that that's just the way things are.

Sometimes, in the consultation room, I'm asked by patients how they can relax when taking exams. Of course, there is no magic pill that will instantly relieve one's tension, but there are two general kinds of methods one can use to help oneself relax.

One is an old-style approach to easing nerves in Japan: writing the character for "person" in the palm of your hand with your finger and swallowing. You don't have to do that, of course. You can just tell yourself, "It's alright, it's alright," or anything that will reassure you. What's most important is to do this same ritual several times before the exam, such as at practice tests. By doing this, you will create in yourself a conditioned response, triggered by the ritualized words and actions, that when performed, will flip your switch into "relaxed mode."

As for me, my phrase is, "When this is over, I can go home and sleep." When I say this, I can momentarily regain the feeling of when I'm relaxing in bed, and my nervousness eases. However, I have to be a little careful that I don't relax too much and lose my drive!

The other general kind of method is to distract oneself from the situation.

The experience of feeling that, "It's finally time for the real thing," and having one's mind go blank at the exam is one that I imagine everyone can relate to. But by keeping oneself in "normal, everyday mode" when taking the test, this can be averted. To do this, it may be necessary to pull a few "tricks," like listening to your favorite music or reading the manga comics you always do right up until the test.

When I'm in a stressful situation, I employ this method by observing those around me and imagining things about them. "I wonder if that person dyes their hair?" or "I wonder if that person has kids or if they're single?" or "That's a fashionable sweater. I wonder if it's mail-order?" The more pointless and trifling the content of the things I imagine, the better they are at reducing my tension.

To those students preparing to take exams, why not observe the exam supervisors and guess how old they are. However, if I happen to be one of those exam supervisors, I hope you won't think to yourself, "She seems like she's trying to make herself look young, but I bet she's pretty old."

All joking aside, I wish all students facing exams the best of luck. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

(Mainichi Japan) January 23, 2011
毎日新聞 2011年1月18日 地方版


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