Anchoring – A useful technique for dealing with exam stress
Whether your child is taking the 11 plus exam this year, preparing for GCSEs or SATS tests, he or she may be experiencing feelings of anxiety and stress on the day or in the run-up to the exam.
Sian Goodspeed, founder of Flying Start Tuition Ltd, explains how to help children deal with stressful situations using anchoring – a Neuro-Linguistic Programme (NLP) technique.
To find out what NLP is and how it is used in education read Sian’s first article for us here.
What is anchoring?
Anchors are stimuli that trigger states of mind – thoughts and emotions. For example, a certain smell may remind you of a certain person and your feelings for that person; a song may take you back to a happy childhood memory. We’re often unaware of these anchors.
Anchoring is a useful NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) tool that uses this principle to create intentional anchors to bring about a shift to a positive emotional state. It basically means you create physical anchors and use them to make you feel good, calm or relaxed on demand.
The technique can be used in different situations to overcome anxiety and it is a very effective way to help children to come to a positive, calm state before an exam.
How to help your child to create anchors:
Choose a feeling
Let your child choose how they’d like to feel in that stressful situation for example, feeling calm, focused, confident and alert for an exam – let the child choose words that work for him or her. Let them take a few moments to remember a time when they felt calm and confident in themselves, perhaps while learning a new skill and mastering it.
If this is hard, let hem imagine what it would be like to feel this way. How would they stand or sit, what would they say to themselves?
Evoke the feeling in as much detail as you can
Let your child close his or her eyes and go back in their minds to that positive experience. Encourage him or her to fully relive the moment, using all their senses. What did he or she see, hear and feel? Are there any smells or tastes that come to mind? Perhaps there is a word or phrase that went through his or her head at the time or that makes the feeling stronger: for example, “I can do this!”
Create the anchor when the feeling is at its most intense
When the feeling is at its most intense, let your child create the anchor by making a gesture (for example, touching a knuckle) to create a physical association with that feeling.
Release the anchor
As the feeling starts to fade, let him or her release the ‘anchor’ (stop touching his or her knuckle) and relax. Let your child distract him or herself, e.g. by counting back from 10, to break the state.
Choose another example
Let your child think of another situation where he or she had the same positive feeling and repeat the procedure (steps 2-5). Use the same gesture (ensure your child touches the same knuckle). Let the child choose a third example and anchor the feeling again to the same gesture.
Fire off the anchor
Now, for the fun part! Let your child fire off his or her anchor (by touching the knuckle) to check if the feeling comes back.
If the feeling is not intense enough, repeat the procedure.
• Check the anchor the next day to ensure it is a permanent anchor.
• It may be necessary to repeat this process often in order to build up a strong anchor. Teach your child to do this many times (e.g. 5-10) in one session and also repeat regularly over time.
• If he or she is in a situation where they experience the desired state in reality, they can reinforce the anchor by touching the same knuckle in that moment.
When your child should use his or her anchor:
➢ In a situation when he or she needs to feel that way e.g. before the 11+ test is a good time to set off his or her physical anchor by making the gesture (touching the same knuckle).
➢ If a situation is looming that requires this kind of feeling, let the child mentally rehearse dealing with that situation whilst firing off his or her anchor.
Further information on anchoring see the resources page of Flying Start Tuition’s website.