Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Customs Broker Examination, CH 1, Part 3: Physical Techniques to Reduce Anxiety

The following is an excerpt of The Customs Broker Examination, by Scott Warren Taylor and Andrew Moxon. This book is a part of the Customs Broker Exam Preparation Course from Boskage Commerce Publications. We'll be posting a large excerpt here, with new posts every Tuesday and Thursday morning. Click here if you want to read the whole book right away.


Part 3: Physical Techniques to Reduce Anxiety – Sleep Patterns

Having pointed out the importance of the CBE and subsequent license, it is relevant to discuss what can be done, from a physical standpoint, to reduce harmful anxiety. Anxiety is principally a mental phenomenon and functions as a mental detriment to performance, but it has physical qualities as well, and there are steps you can take to combat anxiety on a physical level. In this chapter, we will be discussing some common-sense actions one can take to physically fend off unproductive anxiety and physically prepare for the CBE.

Sleep Patterns
If I were helping my over-imaginative friend to pass the CBE today, I could offer ideas for avoiding a repeat performance. One of the first things I would suggest is that he routinize his sleeping patterns. He complained that certain demands kept him from sleeping regularly, but the fact is that one greatly reduces one’s chances of overcoming anxiety in a state of physical stress caused by lack of sleep or irregular sleeping patterns. Criteria for a routine sleep pattern are largely individual. All of us, for whatever biological or psychological reasons, need different amounts of sleep, but we should additionally admit that we need different amounts of sleep at different points in our lives. To determine how much sleep is sufficient for top mental performance at this particular point in your life, try this exercise: simply choose a regular time to retire each night, say 10:00, and then allow yourself to sleep undisturbed until you awaken naturally, without an alarm clock. Repeat this method for five days, and by the fifth day you should be able to average the number of hours spent in slumber each night, and arrive at a fairly realistic indication of your personal sleeping habits. Violate your sleeping requirements and you increase your chance of failure accordingly.

You may imagine, as my friend did, that demands from outside sources are suddenly infringing upon your sleep time. Carefully examine the circumstances that interfere with achieving routine sleep. It is highly probable that what appear to you to be legitimate reasons for not sleeping regularly are, in fact, inventions you yourself are creating as obstacles to success. If this seems to be happening, ask yourself: Am I really suddenly required to spend 12 hours a day at the office? Or am I preparing a case of justification for my predicted failure? Is there a correlation between the number of days left before the CBE and the increased demands on my time by outside sources?

If you seem to have an unresolvable conflict between the demands of preparing for the CBE and demands from outside sources, test the conflict by asking yourself if there is a course of action that you can take, no matter how difficult the action may seem, that will satisfy both demands.

It is true that certain personalities seem to have a compulsion for justifying failure in ways that are perceived to be acceptable to their peers, long before the failure occurs. One of their favorite tricks is to push themselves to the point of exhaustion due to seemingly unavoidable demands placed upon them by outside sources. They do not sleep. They drag themselves, hollow-eyed and stoop-shouldered, into the examination room on the verge of collapse. These people do sometimes succeed, but if they fail it is with the reassurance that their peers will see how unfairly they were beset by destructive and time-consuming demands.

All of this is calculated to avoid humiliation and to preserve the notion that they could have passed, had those outside demands not occurred.

One further note: be wary of too much sleep. It can be as detrimental as not having enough. Too much sleep may be symptomatic of depression or regression from the perceived demands of the upcoming test. Sleep too much and you’ll find your mind feeling fat, groggy, generally sluggish and unresponsive. The key is to “routinize” your sleep to the correct amount you require.

Most of all, pay special attention to the night before the CBE. If you are prone to sleepless nervous nights, you may want to consult your physician for a mild, sleep-inducing drug, or a natural supplement such as melatonin. If you do take this alternative, try the substance out a few weeks before the examination to check your mental preparedness the next day.

This concludes today's excerpt from The Customs Broker Examination.

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