Another word for "Alertness" is AWARENESS, which is very different from THINKING. Awareness means having a simple clear perception of reality, whereas thinking means actively moving from point to point in your mind. In many cases of daily life, we overthink to the point that we lose awareness of our surroundings. For example, have you ever found yourself driving home thinking about something obsessively and then arriving at home only to realize you have no memory of the journey? This classic scenario illustrates how overthinking destroys awareness. So how can we overcome overthinking? We do this NOT by repressing our thinking, but by raising our awareness. Cultivating awareness will not only dissolve overthinking and bring us back to reality; it will also dissolve anxiety... especially on high stakes tests such as the SAT or ACT.
Here's a simple exercise to help you cultivate awareness and bring your thinking back into line:
1. Sit upright in your chair with your back straight but relaxed.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Ground your feet and feel the pressure of the floor under them. Focus on the firm secure feeling of your feet on the floor.
4. Take 10 slow deep breaths, keeping your attention on your feet.
5. If another sound, sensation, or thought arises, don't fight it. Simply be aware of it for a second or two. Then release it and return your awareness to the sensation of your feet on the floor.
6. After ten breaths, open your eyes slowly.
7. Take one more deep breath, bringing your attention back to your eyes and the page in front of you. Appreciate how clear and bright everything is.
Given that you are now Relaxed and Alert, pay attention to the words or numbers in front of your nose and don’t think so hard! Do these Ten Breaths + Foot Grounding before EACH section of the SAT (Reading, Writing/Language, Math). In addition, if you start to get anxious during the test, simply stop and take ONE DEEP BREATH while grounding your feet. Over time, this simple practice will become your automatic "reset" button for dissolving anxiety and thinking clearly, calmly, and accurately.