Anxiety and stress are a normal part of any EPPP preparation regime. When preparing to pass the Examination for the Professional Practical of Psychology (EPPP) you not only have to contend with normal test-taking blues, but also the stress that comes with trying to stick to an intensive study regime. Stress can become especially acute when you need to protect your study time from friends and family who may not always understand and who may even feel like you are neglecting them.
I know because I’m a struggling PhD student.
As if that isn’t bad enough, when preparing for the EPPP you may also begin to feel like your value and self-worth are hanging in the balance. For example, when you fail a practice test, you may find yourself thinking “I’ll never make a good psychologist – I’m a worthless person.”
Thankfully you’re not alone with these types of challenges. At TSM we have your back. We not only provide you tools that guarantee EPPP success, but we also provide resources to help you navigate these types of emotional and mental stressors. For example, last September we provided 10 steps for succeeding at the EPPP without ruining your life in the process. In our more recent post on peace of mind we shared 6 steps for keeping a positive mindset no matter what is happening around you…including the stress of EPPP test preparation.
As part of our ongoing commitment helping you to manage the stress and anxiety of EPPP prep, I wanted to take some time to expand on the last two points in our previous post on peace of mind, namely not complaining and practicing gratitude. I observed that when we refrain from complaining we become happier and healthier people. Moreover, I suggested that when we practice gratitude we actually affect material changes in our brains that assist us towards mental and emotional peace.
What I want to suggest now is that our goal should be higher than simply not complaining. You see, it’s possible to refrain from complaining verbally and still have a complaining mindset. We simply keep the complaints to ourselves.
Make no mistake: keeping your complaints inside is a huge step in the right direction. When we verbalize our complaints this makes them solidified, concrete and amplified. But the goal should be not even to complain in our hearts. Instead focus on everything you have to be grateful for. Where there are problems in your life, channel your energy into finding solution to those problems instead of simply lamenting. (Will Bowen explains this distinction in his video on the complaint-free challenge below.)
What does this have to do with EPPP test preparation? Simple: when we’re grateful, we can increase our intelligence. Moreover, research shows that a grateful outlook on life directly increases heart-rate variability which is itself associated with improved memory and greater cognitive functioning.
I don’t know about you, but I find this pretty exciting. Just think—you can actually improve your memory and test-taking ability through gratitude! And given the fact that grateful people are happier and healthier anyway, it’s clearly a win-win situation.
Gratitude isn’t about telling yourself you’re happy when you’re really not. It also isn’t about blind optimism. Research shows that artificial optimism actually makes people feel worse, especially people who are already prone to low self-esteem. Rather, gratitude is about learning to see life in a new way. It’s about learning to reframe challenges as opportunities and to see setbacks as occasions for growth. It’s about learning to find something to be thankful for in the midst of the most trying difficulties. It’s about choosing to focus on what is really good in your life.
Of course, practicing gratitude won’t take away stress, let alone the stress of EPPP preparation. But research is increasingly showing that gratitude helps us to manage stress in addition to helping to alleviate depression and anxiety.
In future posts in this series I’ll provide tips for gratitude-based re-framing techniques. In the meantime, here are some cool resources to keep you going: