Standardized testing has drawn its share of criticism from teachers, students and parents. One of the most common complaints is the stress that all three groups feel - from preparation through performance.
From a young age, students take these timed tests that measure academic competency and, ultimately, whether they're college material. Countless articles on standardized testing in the U.S. point out the pressure on students to score well; that teachers are often evaluated by how their students fare on the tests; and that parents get anxiety hoping their children score high.
Amid all this stress comes the basic but difficult-to-answer question: How to deal with it?
"There is a tremendous amount of controversy about standardized testing, and no matter which side of the argument you are on, teachers have no choice," says Dr. Raj Gupta (www.drrajgupta.com), founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center and author of Wellness Center Solution: How Physicians Can Transform Their Practices, Their Income and Their Lives.
"So teachers, students and parents must deal with it the best way they can. And finding consistently healthy habits to counter these stress inducers is so important. In fact, taking the stress out of the test process can carry over to every aspect of their life. The scores aren't as important as the quality of life they give themselves in what is a results-oriented world, often to a fault."
Gupta offers four tips that teachers, students and parents can use to better deal with test-related stress:
* Diet. Poor eating habits contribute to stress. "I see this every day with my three girls," Gupta says. "Grandma will feed them tons of sugar, and then I come home to find the girls either bouncing off the walls or miserably cranky after crashing from their sugar high. Good wholesome foods that are not processed or refined and are free from trans fats prevent our energy levels from peaking and crashing throughout the day."
* Rest. Getting enough sleep helps keep your body and mind in top shape, making you better equipped to deal with any negative stressors. "Most of your healing and repair takes place when you are sleeping," Dr. Gupta says. "This is when the body recharges the battery. If you continue to deprive your body of sleep, your immune system breaks down and you get sick."
* Exercise. A study conducted by California State University found that a 10-minute walk is enough to increase energy, alter mood, and provide a positive outlook for up to two hours. Exercise also assists in quality sleep. "Exercise is the greatest stress buster," Gupta says. "Regular exercise can change your life."
* Mental attitude. "Stress is like a snowball: If you let it roll, it will gain speed, momentum and weight, and you are over-reacting, making even small difficulties seem like major crises," Gupta says. He suggests countering a stressful situation with a calming action. Example: when rush-hour traffic is irritating, listen to a self-improvement audio. "Some things we can't control, but we can control our response to them," Gupta says.
"Stress can cause all sorts of health problems," Gupta says. "It affects all ages, as seen with the implementation of standardized testing. But it can be dealt with on a daily basis, and by doing so consistently, it can help us pass any and all stress tests in the future.."