Part of ramping up to any of life's big tests is experiencing some anxiety. That's true for big changes, big transitions, big gains, big loses, and especially when the big test you're facing is...a big test. The LCSW exam is as big a test as you've likely faced in recent years. Anxiety is as natural part of exam prep as there is. With that in mind, here a three tips to managing social work exam anxiety.
1. Try CBT. Study while you self-soothe. If you don't already use CBT with clients, try it out on yourself as you're exam prepping. CBT is evidence-based treatment for anxiety and therefore very likely to turn up on the social work licensing exam. It's also very likely to help you out of upward-spiraling anxiety. Under the CBT umbrella fall countless useful interventions. Start with the basics. Do a thought log regarding your feelings about the social work licensing exam. What are your fears? How realistic are they? Thought logging can help you challenge your automatic negative thoughts and replace them with a more realistic assessment of the exam-prepping process. Then go from there...
2. Increase self-care. (This is really the "B" in CBT, but let's count it as a separate item.) Studying for the exam adds one more thing to a social worker's usually wildly busy day. It doesn't have to be the thing that throws your entire life out of whack. While you may have to cut back on some self-care traditions that have been helpful in the past (e.g., hours of zoning out in front of the TV), keep track of your overall self-care and make sure it's dialed up, not down. Look at the fundamentals: exercise, sleep, nutrition. You're worth it!
3. Remember past coping. Social workers see clients who have found their coping resources outstripped by their circumstances. Still, they find ways to help. Exam prep time is ideal for turning your best social work interventions back on yourself. Be strengths-based. What's helped you in the past? Dig through your coping toolbox and put that stuff back to work for you. You know best how to manage your anxiety.
And... If you really want to take anxiety reduction seriously, write yourself an exam anxiety treatment plan complete with goals and objectives. Remember, your well-being is more important than the letters that follow your name! Good luck.