NCLEX Tips: 5 Ways to Tame the Tension

Updated | Published
by Damion Jenkins Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN (Trusted Brand)

Specializes in NCLEX Prep Expert - 100% Pass Rate!. Has 12 years experience.

When nursing students and new grads are beginning to worry about studying for the NCLEX on top of everything else they need to manage, anxiety is sure to be running high. Now, you may find it surprising that anxiety can be helpful in many situations, including during an exam like the NCLEX. It only becomes a problem when test-takers are unable to tame the tensions and allow the anxiety to take over the narrative within their minds.This article will discuss 5 ways that you can transform your test-anxiety from a crippling barrier to a powerful tool for NCLEX success!

Do you suffer from test-anxiety?

NCLEX Tips: 5 Ways to Tame the Tension

When test-takers are feeling the pressures of the high-stakes NCLEX, it can be overwhelming and cause a great deal of self-doubt. With self-doubt, candidates are more likely to change their answers, pick more difficult sounding answer choices because they think the correct answer choice was just too easy, or they may blank out completely and waste valuable testing time.

To help you calm your anxieties so that they don’t determine the fate of your NCLEX attempt, here are five tips to help you perform at your best:

Focus on test-taking strategies

There are so many amazing tools, methods, and concepts that can really boost your ability to navigate complicated NCLEX test questions. When you start to feel yourself slipping into the rabbit hole of “what if” and “could be”, you should take a moment to remind yourself that there are strategies that you can depend on to help you arrive at the correct answer. When you focus on test-taking strategies and begin applying them to every test question, you will find that the little voices of self-doubt and anxious ponder fade away so you can focus on selecting the correct answer.

A rested mind is a calm mind

Getting enough rest and quality sleep is VITAL for your success. It is imperative that you find the will to refrain from staying up all night studying before a test. Even though it may have worked for you in nursing school to stay up all night cramming for exams, that will not help you pass the NCLEX. Questions on the NCLEX are complicated and require a great deal of focus and concentration. Being tired will only feed into your anxieties and will only inhibit your ability to make safe and sound decisions. Get at least 8 hours of sleep each day of the week leading up to your exam so you will be at your optimal ability.

Limit caffeinated beverages

Having one cup of coffee in the morning is generally okay, but overdoing it can make your central nervous system go into overdrive, which could make your test anxiety worse! Coffee isn’t the only thing that has caffeine in it. You also want to avoid too much chocolate, cola, iced tea, and energy drinks. It is also important to know that for every one caffeinated beverage you consume, you should follow with at least two glasses of water to help dilute the caffeine and rehydrate your body and mind.

Take a deep breath and blow out the tension

There may be several times when answering NCLEX questions where you feel that your nerves are starting to get the best of you. Instead of giving into them and becoming overwhelmed with anxiety, it is important to acknowledge the anxiety and regain control. The best way to do that is to close your eyes, and say the following phrase: “I acknowledge my anxiety. My anxiety is a part of who I am. My anxiety does not control me. My anxiety is not helping me at this moment in time. I ask that my anxiety leave and return when it will serve me well.” Then take a deep breath, and exhale slowly - letting all of that tension and anxiety flow out of you. Take a moment to be thankful for the ability to regain focus, and continue on your way towards NCLEX success.

Embrace imperfection

Oftentimes anxiety flares up when test-takers can’t seem to confidently arrive at the correct answer. Whether it is while practicing NCLEX questions, or during an actual exam, the desire to get answers correct becomes an obsession that feeds the anxiety and makes it worse. Dwelling on the fact that you do not know the answer, or that you got an answer incorrectly will cause you to lose focus and could send you down the wrong path. Sometimes it's best to humbly embrace the fact that we don’t know the answer. When this happens, do your best to pick an answer and move on.

As you find yourself struggling with the anxieties, doubts, and tensions that come with studying for the NCLEX, just remember that you are never alone. There are many people - like myself - who are rooting for you. Be sure to take the time to master these tension taming tips, so that you may find peace on your journey towards NCLEX success!

Best Wishes!

For more information download the NCLEX Study Guide ebook...

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Damion Jenkins, RN, MSN is an NCLEX Prep Expert and CEO of The Nurse Speak. Named the "NCLEX Whisperer" in an article by Nurse Beth, Damion provides individualized NCLEX Prep tutoring and mentoring services. For more information about Damion and the services he provides, please visit www.thenursespeak.com.

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6 Comment(s)

jessica compere, CNM

Specializes in Nurse. Has 15 years experience. 1 Post

Hello allnurses, I need some type of help on understanding how to pick and choose an answer if you don’t really understand the content. I am using UWorld, and Saunders in order to study.
please help

Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN

Specializes in NCLEX Prep Expert - 100% Pass Rate!. Has 12 years experience. 25 Articles; 160 Posts

Thanks jessica compere, CNM for your comment!

The first place to start is learning how to identify what the question is asking. Identifying the topic of the question can be tricky - especially with the more complicated questions.

Let's take this question for example:

The nurse is caring for a patient in the Emergency Department who arrived by ambulance for left side facial droop and left arm weakness. The patient's blood pressure is 208/102, heart rate is 98, respiratory rate is 22, temperature is 98.4 F, and the SpO2 is 96%. The patient tells the nurse "I am so afraid! I am not ready to die! I have so much to live for! What about my family!?!" What response, if made by the nurse, would be most appropriate?

a) "You are having a stroke, don't worry, you're in good hands now."

b) "It is normal to be afraid. I will do everything I can to help you."

c) "Do you want me to call your family so you can tell them how much you love them?"

d) "You're not going to die. Once we get your CT results, we will make sure you get the treatment you need."

So, you have to ask yourself - what is the topic?

The best way to identify the topic is to look for what the question is asking.

In this question, it asks - what response, if made by the nurse, would be most appropriate.

So - NOW you have to ask yourself - what do I know to be true about appropriately responding to someone who is afraid?

Ahhhh! The RULES of THERAPEUTIC COMMUNICATION!

When you know the rules that guide nursing practice - the need for knowing every single detail no longer creates a barrier to your ability to answer NCLEX questions appropriately.

What's the correct answer - and why?

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 16 years experience. 14,362 Posts

Am I the only one who is totally grossed out by that stock photo of the "nurse" and her horrifically long fake nails?

Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN

Specializes in NCLEX Prep Expert - 100% Pass Rate!. Has 12 years experience. 25 Articles; 160 Posts

6 hours ago, klone said:

Am I the only one who is totally grossed out by that stock photo of the "nurse" and her horrifically long fake nails?

Thank you klone for raising this concern.

Long and/or artificial nails are not representative of frontline healthcare providers as infection control policies and uniform policies typically do not permit them. Long and/or artificial nails can cause breaks in proper infection control protocols as well as interfere with maintaining workplace and patient safety. Clearly this stock image model didn't get the memo. ?

As a reminder for all of our readers - it is imperative that you always follow your school and work policies regarding long and/or artificial fingernails.

Thank you,

-Damion

tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg. 156 Articles; 5,915 Posts

Good point about the fake/long nails. The nails....and the nurse/student have been replaced.

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 16 years experience. 14,362 Posts

Thanks guys!