Work Through Your Interview Anxiety In Real Time

Applying to PA school is stressful. Between researching schools, writing your personal narrative, getting your application materials together, and making sure you have enough patient contact experience, you’ll have your fair share of stressful moments- and that’s all before you even step foot into an interview room!

Managing stress outside of an interview is easier because you’re not put on the spot and actively being assessed by other people. Yes, you have a great deal of preparation to do and a lot of work ahead of you, but the stress can be managed on your own time and in private. On interview day, the stress you feel must be dealt with and suppressed in the moment and in public, so it makes dealing with stressors all the more difficult.
SHIELD technique to reduce interview anxiety
If you feel overwhelmed or have a hard time managing stress, try using the SHIELD technique!  It can help you conquer your anxiety by giving you a way to navigate stressful situations in real time.  Here’s how you master each step of the SHIELD technique:

Stop: As soon as you recognize you’re feeling stressed, take a mental time out. Stop whatever you’re doing or saying for a brief moment and focus solely on managing your stress.

Honor: Take a moment to actually acknowledge what you’re feeling. Trying to overcome something that’s affecting your mental state without actually identifying what you’re feeling won’t work. Once you can identify the cause of your stress, you can start the process of working through it.

Inhale: It’s time to take control of your breathing. Consciously focusing on your breath is a great way to reduce your heart rate and get you back to a calm state so you can proceed calmly. Take a deep breath and hold it briefly.

Exhale: Let the air out of your lungs slowly and methodically. Picture the air as your pent up stress and anxiety slowly leaving your body. If you need to do this a few times, try to establish a breathing pattern with counts for how long you inhale, hold, and exhale.

Listen: After taking a moment to refocus and breathe, listen to your thoughts and feelings. Try to find what aspect of the situation is making you stressed. Isolating the cause of your stress can help you compartmentalize it and move on.

Decide: Now that you’ve isolated the cause of your stress, decide how you’re going to conquer it. If it’s an external problem, can it be remedied by changing something in your environment? If its an internal problem, can you shift from an anxious mindset to a confident one? Give yourself a pep talk, remind yourself how hard you’ve worked to get here, and help affirm any positive feelings instead of the anxious ones you may be feeling. If all else fails, try smiling- the physical act of doing this may help shift your mindset.