Tips from CAPS: Staying calm and nailing your next presentation or exam

By Academic Advisor II Micheline Silva LLMSW and MSW Intern Charmain Allen

Do you have a presentation due or an exam to take? Here's how to calm down in the moment.

As the semester progresses, your list of projects, presentations, quizzes, and exams may seem endless. This snowball effect can build stress and anxiety until it is overwhelming. So let's look at some ways to manage anxiety symptoms in the moment. Here are a few ways to tackle anxiety symptoms right before that big presentation or exam.

If you need to calm down immediately, you can do so by following a few simple exercises. Remember, practice makes perfect! So, the more you try these exercises, the better you'll master anxiety relief and mental peace.


"When we focus on breathing, the thoughts that trigger anxiety will become more distant, our heart rate slows, and we start to calm," explains Dr. Dawn Straiton of Walden University.

Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique:

  • Breathe in for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat until you feel calmer.
  • Name what you're feeling.

    In the moment of an anxious episode, you may not realize what's going on until you're really in the thick of it. Giving a name to your feelings may help you step away from them.


    "Finding an exercise that will quickly increase your heart rate, like running, is helpful at reducing anxiety," explains Patricia Celan, a postgraduate psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada. She says that spending just 5 minutes in a high-speed run would be just enough to help you reduce anxiety quickly. But don't limit yourself to 5 minutes...Keep going if find that you're enjoying yourself!

    Think of something funny.

    "You actually contract and expand muscles when you laugh, this action helps reduces physical anxiety, stress, and tension," says Steven Sultanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Pepperdine University. Laughter also fights the production of cortisol (stress) levels in the body, he adds.

    Reach out for help.

    helping handsAt Wayne State, there are many resources available to help you cope with mental health symptoms.

  • CAPS Let's Talk
  • Warrior Life & Wellness
  • Campus Health Center Triage
  • College of Education Mental Health & Wellness Clinic
  • The WSU Psychology Clinic: 313-577-2840
  • WSU Afterhours Program (after 5 p.m., weekends, holidays and closures): 313-577-2277 (on-campus residents) or 313-577-9982 (off-campus students)
  • As always, keep in mind that CAPS is here for you!

    You can reach out directly to Embedded Counselor Patti Dixon at 313-577-3243 or If you need help after hours or on the weekend, call CAPS at 313-577-9982.

    WSU Applebaum offers dedicated Counseling and Psychological Services support to students on a group or individual basis. To get started, visit and complete the initial consultation form, making sure to note that you are an EACPHS student.

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