Stressed Studying for the CPCU®?

Who would ever think that studying for an exam could cause such stress, anxiety and burnout?! 

Unfortunately, many of us feel such negative side effects when faced with life-changing stressors like the API™ and CPCU® exams. Everyone experiences stress, whether we like it or not. But, stress isn’t always bad for you and the negative symptoms that we do experience like, headaches, poor sleep, lowered immunity and decreased cognitive performance are an effect of chronic stress, not short-term stress. The stress response is a natural biological response that every animal experiences, including dogs, lions, and humans. Although animals experience stress as a fight or flight response to dangers from predation or starvation, humans don’t have to worry about running away from Saber Tooth Tigers or fending off hunger (especially in modern cultures). 

The biggest difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom is that we are the only species that worries about the future. What is so interesting to me is how the modern human stress response works as a catch 22. On one hand, stress helps motivate us to study hard so we can put in the effort we need to pass the API™ and CPCU® exams. On the other hand, stress can be the biggest distraction and lead us to spiraling thoughts of self-defeating thoughts. 

In this article, I am going to help you better understand the stress you may experience when studying for the API™ or CPCU® and one stress management tool to help ward off the waves of anxiety and self-doubt. 

Understanding Stress

After speaking to Jake I now understand the real-life consequences of taking and passing the API™ or CPCU® test. These exams act as gatekeepers and may create real professional consequences if you don’t pass them. Jake explained to me that in certain circumstances your current employer could actually be paying for your exam. In this position you may feel like if you fail, not only did you waste your employer’s money, but you will get fired from your job. This is a lot of pressure!

I think it is fair to say that these two exams can carry a lot of weight for your personal and professional life. The first thing that I think is worth mentioning is that yes, there is value in recognizing that these exams have negative consequences. However, there is a curve to how beneficial that stress is in your life. As we discussed earlier, there is good stress and bad stress. Allow the importance of this exam drive motivation to your studying. Define specific study times and break down the material in easy, digestible pieces, just like Jake outlines in his programs. If you start to experience anxiety because you are getting overwhelmed by what the failing grade may mean to your life, just remember, the more you divert your attention and bandwidth to “oh my gosh I am stressed. I am going to fail this exam!” you are actually taking away from the energy you could be putting into your studies so you actually pass the exam!

As simple as this sounds, having the tool of self-analysis and restructuring your cognitive distortions can be your best stress management tool when preparing for the API™ or CPCU® exams.

Cognitive Distortions

Let’s first quickly explain what cognitive distortions are. I like to define cognitive distortions as a distorted way of thinking that negatively affects you and your goals. Often times cognitive distortions are the gap between what you experience and your reality. Thinking this way can not only lead to negative consequences in your life but it may lead to poor study habits and eventually poor texting performance. 

I will give you an example that will relate to your studies for the API™ and CPCU® exams.

“If I don’t pass this exam I am a total loser, my parents are going to think I am good for nothing and I will never get a job.”

When you say these words you are creating a narrative. This new narrative is a great way to define yourself, but the way you are defining yourself only leads to discouragement. It is kind of hard to get motivated to study if you have already made up your mind that you’re going to fail the exam and be a loser. 

Managing Stress

So how do you overcome these cognitive distortions, end your personal torment and pass your exams?

Here’s how, reframe your distorted thoughts and statements. 

Continuing off of the above example you have to catch yourself every time you utter a distorted thought. Reverse the negative statements to a more realistic and positive point of view. This is how you turn lemons into lemonade and turn your negative thought patterns toward optimism, resilience and motivation.

So, to reframe I would say to myself “Okay, I feel a little overwhelmed right now, but that is okay. Let me breakdown this exam content is smaller, more digestible study sessions. I can do this and as long as I study smart I will  pass this exam!”

The goal of restructuring your negative thoughts is to pull the weight off of your shoulders. Most people do not perform well when the consequences are so dire. You want to understand the reality of your circumstance and also know that if you actually use your bandwidth for smart studying  you will crush your exam!

I hope that this post helps give you a better understanding of why we stress under the pressures of passing exams and how to effectively redirect our negative thoughts to more empower thoughts. Yes, studying for the CPCU® and managing a 9-5 pm isn’t easy, but it also isn’t impossible. With the right tools you conquer these stressors and be way more effective with your studies. Best of luck studying for your exams!

Guest Post – About the Author

Andrew Laux is a fitness and wellness entrepreneur and Founder of Kopely. Andrew has his undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology, worked as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach, Director of Operations for boutique fitness gyms, owner of his own mobile training company, and as a consultant for a health and fitness start-up in NYC. Andrew is now spending his time building Kopely, a mobile app that is trying to solve the problem of increasing rates of stress and anxiety.


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CPCU® exams are administered by the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (“The Institutes”). AssociatePI does not administer the actual exams, we are an independent resource of free content, advice, and study material for professional insurance education. This blog is intended for informational purposes only, to inform prospective students of the benefit of the AINS™  designation.

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