Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ Category
Millennials (ages 18 to 33) are experiencing increasing stress—higher than the national norm–with work as the main source of difficulty, followed by money and relationships.[i] On a 10-point scale, the 2012 average was 4.9, while it was 5.4 for Millennials. It makes sense that stress is depressing. The online survey of over 2,000 adults found that Millennials are more likely than other age groups to be told by a health care provider that they have depression (19%) or anxiety disorder (12%). Their most popular coping mechanisms are music (59%), exercise (51%) and spending time with family and friends (46%). They were more likely than other age groups to cope with relationships (vs. an average of 39%).
[i] Sharon Jayson, “Who’s Feeling Stressed?”, USA Today, February 7, 2013.
Since your brain is your main tool in achieving test success, let’s identify the various parts and how to use them, as explained in The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. The brain is so complex it takes until the mid-20s to mature. It has around 100 billion neurons, each with an average of 10,000 connections to other neurons. When they fire together they grow new connections that rewire the brain throughout our lives: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” This means repeated experiences imprint the brain and we are able to change it. The ability of the brain to change with new stimuli is called plasticity. The lower brain, called the reptilian brain, acts instinctively to keep us safe from danger and controls basic functions such as heart rate and breathing. It developed first in fish. The amygdala, about the size of an almond, is in the mid-brain mammalian or limbic area that records memories that are responsible for our emotions. It processes emotions, especially anger and fear. If it kicks in during a test, we can lose contact with the thinking neocortex. The neocortex behind the forehead developed in primates and has two large cerebral hemispheres united by the corpus callosum nerve fibers. Only a few million years old, the neocortex allowed for human language and culture and is where we need to focus while studying or during tests.
The right hemisphere sees the big picture and is nonverbal but picks up information and emotions. It allows us to communicate as by noticing facial expressions. The left brain develops when we’re around three-years-old and start asking “why?” It is logical and connects thoughts in a linear way to do math or use language. Test-taking is primarily a left hemisphere activity. Mental health is characterized by balance between the two hemispheres. We want to stay centered when an upset occurs rather than feeling like we’re chaotically out of control or going to the opposite pole of rigid control.
The brain stores “implicit memories” that we may not be conscious of, such as Chris taking a test when he was 12 and started to get sick to his stomach. He may not remember the experience but still associates taking tests with feeling bad and doesn’t know why. The hippocampus pulls images and emotions from different parts of the brain like putting together a puzzle that creates an explicit memory that we can work with consciously. If Chris processes his memories of past unpleasant test experiences and makes them explicit, he can use his left hemisphere to take a positive approach and not be thrown off center by old fears.
We want to take a test from the left hemisphere, not letting the amygdala run the show with fear. If someone has test anxiety, the feelings and memories in the right hemisphere need to be acknowledged and brought into awareness. This can be done by writing about the fears in a journal, painting them, or telling a friend your anxious moments test taking. Telling stories helps integrate the two brain functions as the feelings and memories are right hemisphere, while the words and arranging events are left hemisphere. Naming and understanding a fear can deflate its power. Logic can kick in and say, “Now I have new strategies to use to stay calm and focused. I’m focusing on my deep relaxed breathing rather than my fear. I can use my simple tools as by counting from 10 to 1 and use my senses to look around the exam room, or moving the body.”
If the amgdala’s fear kicks in during a test, know that you can change your focus to the frontal cortex. To move attention away from fear, connect with it by naming it and acknowledging it, then redirect your focus by paying attention to your senses. What do you hear? Notice your breathing and take a drink of water. Touch your forehead to remind it to be the boss. Work on cleaning out old negative memories before you take an important test.
I have a lot of experience studying and test taking for my bachelor’s degree, teaching credential, two Masters Degrees, and Ph.D. I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you. Traveling around the world, talking with young people for my book Awesome: How Global Youth Will Transform Our Future I heard how much time and sometimes worry and anxiety goes into studying for the university entrance exam. I wanted to add the advice and experience of young people from various countries, high school and university students, to discover how they excel. We started a Facebook page called Test Success: How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety where we invite you to add your comments and suggestions. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Test-Success-How-to-Cope-with-Stress-and-Anxiety/185582088232378?skip_nax_wizard=true
To take tests well, when studying for a test, quiz yourself on questions you think might be on the test. Find out as much as you can about the form of the examination. Will it be essay or multiple choice?
Study with small groups and take turns quizzing each other, as the best way to learn is to teach. Negative self-talk is an enemy, so post positive messages around your workspace, on your mirror and refrigerator, such as “I am capable of deep concentration to remember what I read. I’m calm and focused when I take a test.” Set realistic goals ad reward yourself for achieving them, as we respond to rewards and praise. You might ask your parents to add to your rewards when you achieve a goal. Give yourself and others more praise than criticism. Look for the positive lessons in a challenging problem. If you didn’t do well, think about what you learned from the experience rather than beating yourself up.
Start with a deep breath from the lower stomach area. Quickly imagine the most calm and perfect place for you, such as a beach, a lake, a mountaintop, or a sand dune. Look at the teacher for a moment to focus and then get started. Read the instructions carefully. Tilt the paper so your head is not bending over in a tired position. Go through the questions and do the easy ones first. When in doubt, go with your first response. Then go back to the question you’re not sure about. If you have time, check over the answers several times before handing in the test.
To improve your test-taking results, be over prepared and avoid cramming. Try to predict test questions as you study and write down answers on study cards. Breathe, relaxing your muscles as you exhale all your air, gently expanding your belly as you breathe in air. Do this at least three times. Always reading the directions completely, nothing point values so you can plan your time. Don’t leave any answers blank, even if you have to guess, unless there is a penalty for wrong answers. In true and false tests, inclusive words like “all” and “always” often flag a “false” statement. There are usually more true than false questions on a test. Longer questions are likely to be correct. Read multiple choice statements noting whether each is a “T” or an “F” so that you can respond to an “all of the above” choice (these are likely to be true).
During the test, if you feel anxious, take deep breaths, visualize getting your test back with an “A,” imagine an invisible wise person helping you, or use positive self-talk. Tense and relax your feet, ankles, calves, and other muscles.
Also see interviews with teens globally. http://www.youtube.com/user/TheGlobalyouth
Children can progress well after their parents’ divorce if both parents spend loving time with them and the parents keep any conflict away from the kids. Over 250 young people share how they coped with their parents’ divorce and 20 counselors add their insights. Includes a chapter for adults on research about the topic. High school students illustrated each chapter of the book.
Chapters include How to Survive the Divorce, Making Sense of the Separation, Naming your Feelings, Getting Help, Family Fun to Get Through Tough Times, Going Back and Forth Between Two Homes, Staying Close to Both Parents, Parents’ Dating and Remarriage, School Success, Your Future, For Your Parents.
“In this very readable book, Dr. Gayle Kimball provides the facts about parental divorce to kids from kids. Content, language and style make this an important book for young people” Judith Bauersfeld, Ph.D., past president of the Stepfamily Association of America.
How to Survive Your Parents’ Divorce: Kids’ Advice to Kids. Gayle Kimball, Ph.D.
Equality Press. Order from email@example.com
How to Achieve Your Goals
1. Balance your energy field with bi-lateral movements and drink water.*
2. Set a specific realistic goal that you really want. Use positive words such as “a healthy weight” rather than “loose weight” or “put healthy substances in my body” rather than “quit smoking.”
Post a written statement in many places, vehicle, bathroom mirror, etc.
2. Research actions to take, a plan of specific actions, a strategy. You may want to talk with role models about how they accomplished their goal. Make a vision board so you have real pictures of your goal to emulate
3. Decide on daily actions. You may need a support group with the same goal to reinforce each other’s actions.
Reward yourself for taking action.
Avoid procrastination by breaking a task into small parts and doing at least one daily. Schedule in regular time for your action without interruption.
4. Be aware of self-sabotage and negative thinking, “I don’t deserve,” “I can’t,” “My family would be threatened….” Use Emotional Freedom Technique to clear unconscious blocks.**
Post affirmations than inspire and encourage you. Use visualizations.
5. Record your progress in a journal or chart. Evaluate your progress once a week to see if you need to research a different plan of action that works better for you.
Gayle Kimball. Essential Energy Tools.
Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College.
Dr. Alexander was a rational nonbeliever of a Harvard University surgeon and professor until he was in a comma for a week due to bacterial meningitis that attacked his brain, leaving him on life support machines. Because his brain was out of commission for longer than in most near death experiences, he was able to ask questions of God over time, assisted in his other dimensional journeys by the spirit of his dead sister. OM, as he refers to God, taught him that there are a multitude of universes [just as String Theory physics predicts and Robert Monroe’s books on astral travel describe]. The dimensions aren’t separate; he explains, “This terrestrial realm is tightly and intricately meshed within these higher worlds.” The essence is unconditional Love: “Love and compassion make up the very fabric of the spiritual realm.” Some evil exists because without it there could be no free will or growth. Dr Alexander concluded, “Our role here is to grow toward the Divine, and that growth is closely watched by the beings in the worlds above,” “the souls and lucent orbs” which others call angels. While on the other dimensions, he felt energized by prayers of his family and friends. For skeptics that consciousness exists out of body, he recommends the book Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century.
Beyond the fulfillment of basic needs, having more technology and possessions doesn’t lead to happiness. Americans who’ve spent time living with poor people living traditional lives in Africa comment on their happiness and lack of complaining, even when dealing with prolonged hunger. For example, a development expert commented in her book, “I was awestruck by the Ugandans’ ability to endure suffering and still embrace great joy.”[i] In Havana, I was told that Americans have a lot of material things, but Cubans enjoy life more, dancing, going to the beach, and spending relaxed time with family and friends. In general kids seem happier, as studies show they laugh a lot more than adults. Women tend to laugh more than men and men are the best laugh-getters, states Robert Provine in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. (It’s good for our health, increasing the healthy function of the tissue lining the blood vessels, reports a 2005 study at the University of Maryland.)
Europeans work less, have less stuff, and have more time and quality of life than Americans. The slow food movement started in Italy and other slow campaigns aim to calm the hectic pace of urban life in both Europe and the US. The Take Back Your Time Campaign was started in Seattle to change workaholic patterns with techniques such as described in a how-to book.[ii] The WIN-Gallup International Global Barometer of Happiness surveyed 58 countries and found no relationship between income and happiness; what influences well-being is social status compared to peers.[iii]
A Gallup Poll released in 2012 reported that Latin America stood at the forefront for positive emotions, with Panama, Paraguay and Venezuela at the top.[iv] Thailand and the Philippines also scored high for positive emotions. Negative emotions were highest in the Middle East and North Africa, with Iraq, Bahrain and Palestine topping that list. Singapore is very prosperous but the people were the least emotionally expressive, illustrating again that money doesn’t buy happiness. The countries of the former USSR also scored low on expressing emotions. The poll asked 1,000 people age 15 and older in 148 countries questions like “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you feel a lot of enjoyment, physical pain, worry, sadness, stress, or anger?”
A World Happiness Report, presented to a 2012 UN conference on creating a new economic model, found that happiness is more strongly associated with community engagement, social networks, mental health, and individual freedom and lack of corruption than with money–once basic needs are met.[v] In this framework, individualism and social support are not opposites as both are helpful. Costa Rica is an example of a happy poor country. In the Happiness Index of 170 counties, the wealthy US ranked at a low 150.
As usual, Scandinavian countries were among the top of the list of good outcomes, among the happiest, while the lowest are poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa indicating poverty of course diminishes life satisfaction. The UN report authors advocate “adopting lifestyles and technologies that improve happiness (or life satisfaction) while reducing human damage to the environment.” An example of taking action towards this goal, Brazilian youth are trained to conduct happiness surveys and practice altruism, resulting in new neighborhood activities to take action when needs are identified. Schools near San Paulo teach compassion and wellbeing, encouraging children to be “doctors of joy.”
[i] Jacqueline Novogratz. The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World. Rodale Press, 2009, p. 19.
[iv] Jon Clifton, “Latin Americans Most Positive in the World,” Gallup World, December 19, 2012. http://www.gallup.com/poll/159254/latin-americans-positive-world.aspx
After your Christmas dinner I recommend my mother’s tradition of each person offering the meaning of Christmas to them, including songs, reading “The Night Before Christmas,” “The Littelst Angel”and from Luke 1 about the birth of Jesus. I share that Jesus was a radical revolutionary feminist who broke all kinds of Old Testament taboos and discussed theology with women. He focused on forgiveness and love, the spirit of the law rather than the letter, on helping the poor. If the politicians who call themselves Christian practiced what Jesus preached, the world would be a different place. It’s important to go beyond giving and receiving gifts. What does your family do to give spiritual meaning to Christmas?
I’m looking for young people and their teachers to critque a draft of this manuscript. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
How to Deal with Stress and Achieve Test Success
Gayle Kimball, Ph.D.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Student Reports
Students Report Homework and Test Pressures
Writing Tips by Stephen Tchudi
OtherCauses of Stress for Youth: Relationships, Poverty Issues, Health Issues
How Youths Cope with Stress and Worry
Part 2 Coping with Stress
The Physiology and Causes of Stress
Stress Reduction: Breath, Bilateral Balance, Balance the Meridians and Acupressure Points, Brain Gym Exercises for Balancing, Movement and Self-Massage, How to Relax, Self-Talk, Restructuring Your Thinking, Understanding Our Subpersonalities and Emotions, Visualization Exercises to Clear Emotional Blocks, Visualizations to Reduce Stress
Part 3 Other Issues that Lead to School Success
Happiness, Feeling Good About Yourself, Coping with Anxiety, Perfectionism, Being a Sensitive Person, Anger, Worry and Guilt, Depression, School and Stress Cause Fatigue: How to Have More Energy