Shorthand exams can be stressful. The worst part is the moments leading up to when the test starts.
Most people are hit with nerves – pounding heart, unsettled stomach, shaking hands, headaches…. the list could go on.
But there are a few simple steps shorthand students can take to help themselves relax before a big exam.
1. ‘Calm heart, steady hand’
My former journalism tutor – a gnarled and cynical hack – told me this little mantra before sitting the 100 wpm exam. And it really works. Simply repeat ‘calm heart, steady hand’ in your head before the test and it will help to bring relaxation. This works much the same way that people who meditate repeat mantras, or self-help fans say positive affirmations to themselves in the mirror.
2. Deep breathing
Taking a few deep breaths is a guaranteed way to relax in almost any situation. The increased oxygen to the brain will help to relax all of the muscles. Simply stand tall and fill your lungs with air by pushing down your diaphragm and letting the rib cage expand. Only doing this a few times will help. Try and take at least five deep breaths and even try closing the eyes if that helps.
3. Finger stretches
Tension is the worst thing that anybody can find themselves experience. Whether they are professional athlete or a singer, tense muscles in the body will inhibit performance. The same applies for people writing shorthand. Tension in the head, neck and arms will all have an effect on the hands and fingers, which need to be relaxed if they are to write quickly and pass the exam. A really quick simple exercise that will relax the hands is to just gently flex each finger and thumb backwards and forwards. Pull them forward gently out of their sockets, too. Do the same with the wrist. These are great because you can do them discreetly under the desk or while you’re waiting outside the exam room.
4. Roll the eyes
Tension can have a very noticeable effect on the eyes. They become fixed or flit from one thing to another unable to focus. This is not ideal for a shorthand exam, where we need to keep our eyes focused on the page. Simply close your eyes and roll them up to the back of the head like your trying to look at a little bird that’s perched on top of your hair. Hold this for a few seconds then gently move the eyes the left, down, right and back to the top. This will help the muscles in the eyes to relax so that vision is clear and focused.
Positive visualisations are used by successful sports stars, performers, businessmen, academics… and many more. They are a hallmark of hypnotherapy and Neuro Linguistic Programming. So try this one. Before going into the exam imagine yourself to be completely relaxed. See yourself as totally in control sitting at the desk with the shorthand flowing smoothly and accurately. Remember the good feelings of writing shorthand well, with 100 per cent accuracy, and let those grow. Imagine yourself finishing the test and walking out knowing that you have passed. See the certificate with 100wpm pass and your name.
These five exercises are all you will need to relax before an exam. Sure, some people like to have a glass of water or a cup of tea. It’s really up to the individual. But perform these five exercises and you will have a way better chance of passing.