Did your boss tell the office he’s discovered someone’s embezzling from the client accounts? Or maybe he’s noticed that someone’s stealing inventory. He notifies the team he’s called a polygraph technician into the office tomorrow morning to give everyone a lie detector test to find the culprit responsible for the theft.

Immediately, the office is buzzing with excitement. Everyone’s talking about who the culprit could be and what the polygraph test will be like. You remember that episode of CSI where the criminal had to take the polygraph, and you instantly start feeling nervous, even though you’re not responsible for the theft.

What will happen if you’re nervous on the day? Will you fail the test? What happens if you fail? Will you lose your job? Your mind is racing a million miles an hour in anticipation of the event.


Is It Normal to feel Nervous Before Taking a Polygraph?

Yes. Feeling nervous before your polygraph test is normal – you’re human. The fear of the unknown is a powerful driver of emotion in the human mind and body. Fear of the unknown causes us to do crazy things if we lose control of our thinking.

So, don’t feel bad about feeling nervous. Just go with the flow. We curated this list of things to consider the day before and the morning of your lie detector test. Follow this advice, and you won’t have any problems taking the polygraph exam.


The Night Before the Test

Follow these tips to handle your physical and emotional state the afternoon and night before the polygraph test.


Research about Polygraphs

Do some research about polygraphs. You have the right to ask your employer or examiner about the polygraph exam specifics. They must give you information about what to expect in the exam room and how to prepare for the lie detector test.

Your employer may not place you on edge, scare you, or intimidate you about the test and its results. They should comfort you and tell you what you’re being tested for. Take some time to read through articles like the one you’re going through right now. These articles give you an indication of what to expect from the exam.


Don’t Waste Your Time Trying to Learn How to Beat the Polygraph

There’s nothing wrong with reading posts on what to expect from a polygraph. The examiner cannot penalize you for doing so. In fact, they’ll encourage you to do so. By being informed of what to expect, you remove some of the fear of the unknown involved in the procedure.

The fear of the unknown initiates the “fight-or-flight” response, causing you to feel nervous. While researching what to expect from the exam is perfectly fine, avoid reading articles on how to “beat” the polygraph test.

There is no way to beat a lie detector test (more on that in a moment). In fact, it may work against you if you’re researching methods to circumvent the results of the exam questions. The polygraph examiner may ask you if you looked up any articles on how to beat the polygraph test, and they’ll want to know why you did it if you answer yes.


Stick to Your Normal Routine at Night and In the Morning

Don’t do anything out of the ordinary the day before the exam and the day of the lie detector test. You want to remain consistent with your normal behavior and keep to your routine. Don’t do anything outside of your normal behavior.

Go to bed and rise at the same time. If you have a bath at night, maintain that behavior – don’t’ switch it out for a shower in the morning. Changing your routine changes your biological responses, which can alter your behavior on test day.

You might feel like not eating because of your nerves, but power through it and have your evening meal. Skipping it could change your blood sugar and how you feel and think the following day.


Don’t Take any Unprescribed Medicine

If you’re feeling frazzled about the test the following day, that’s totally understandable. However, don’t take any medicine or supplements to help you unwind. Many people might decide to raid their parent’s or roommates’ medicine cabinet for sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs.

These drugs will later affect your normal state of conscious being and thought. You might experience temporary relief for the evening, and you’ll get to sleep fine. However, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling sluggish and irritable. You’re not used to these medications, and despite what the media wants you to believe, there’s a cost to misusing these medications.

Beyond that, if you’re using other people’s prescribed medications like Ambien and Xanax, technically, you’re illegally abusing prescribed medications. That’s likely one of the questions the examiner asks you during the interview, which will reflect poorly on your test results.

Stay away from the medicine cabinet. Also, avoid OTC medications like melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful hormone regulating the sleep cycle. It can also leave you feeling groggy the following day. If you’re feeling nervous, talk to someone about your feelings. Phone a friend or speak to a family member, and they’ll talk you down.


Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Rest is critical for the body’s recovery. When we sleep, the body scavenges all the free radicals in the neural pathways, clearing them. That’s why you wake up feeling fresh after a good night’s sleep and why you feel so tired before you go to bed.

If you spend the night tossing and turning because you’re overthinking the test, it will affect your physiology the following day. Chances are you’ll compensate by loading up on coffee, and that’s a dreadful mistake (more on that in a moment).

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, search for a video on binaural beats on YouTube. There are plenty designed to help you fall asleep. Put on your headphones and listen to the beats. Focus on slowing your breathing and listening to your heartbeat. You’ll find you drop off to sleep fast.


The Day of the Test

Follow these tips for the day of your test.


Eat or Fast?

You want to keep to your routine as much as possible on the day of your polygraph exam. Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. If you eat breakfast in the morning, continue with that practice. If you’re used to eating in the morning before going to work, leaving this meal could have disastrous consequences.

If your body is used to having sustenance in the morning and you don’t feed it, you’ll likely experience a blood sugar crash in the early afternoon, probably right before the polygraph exam. That’s the last thing you need when you’re facing a bunch of tough questions and a challenging environment.

Likewise, if you fast in the morning, keep this practice. Don’t assume you should have something to eat to calm your nerves. Stick to your routine.


Calm Your Mind – Don’t Overthink

Overthinking is one of the biggest causes of panic attacks and anxiety. Don’t dwell on the exam and how you’ll perform that day. It’s common for the brain to panic and goes into stress mode when we face the unknown. The fear of the unknown is thrilling in some cases and downright scary in others.

If you are overthinking the day before the exam or on exam day, try meditation to calm your mind. Meditation might seem like a fad, but it’s a real practice with plenty of science behind it showing the benefits it has for calming and controlling the mind.

Don’t worry if you have no experience in meditation. Load the YouTube app on your phone and type “guided meditation” in the search bar. You’ll see thousands of search results. Pick a ten-minute guided meditation, and plug in your earphones.


Don’t Overdo the Caffeine

If you didn’t get much sleep the night before, it would affect your mood and behavior during the day. It influences how you feel leading up to the polygraph and in the room. However, don’t make the mistake of loading up on coffee or team before the test.

If you feel tired, that’s okay, but if you feel wired, that might be a problem. Too much caffeine in your bloodstream can initiate the “fight-or-flight” response, making you feel nervous and agitated. As a result, you’ll walk into the polygraph exam room feeling on edge.

However, if you start your day with a cup of coffee, keeping that routine on exam day is fine. In fact, avoiding a coffee if you usually have one in the morning will adversely affect your mood and biofeedback. Remember, keep to your routine.


Try Conscious Breathing

You will likely feel highly anxious and nervous about the polygraph in the moments leading up to your exam. You can calm yourself and keep your nerves under control by focusing on your breath. Close your eyes and follow your breath in and out.

Breathe deeply, not shallow. When we breathe shallowly, it initiates a panic response. When you breathe deeply, it calms you. Try breathing in for a count of five and breathing out for a count of eight. This effect activates the parasympathetic nervous system, releasing oxytocin and norepinephrine.

These biochemicals have a calming effect on the body and the mind. If you do it right, you should take four to six breaths per minute. Combine this with your meditation technique, and you put yourself in the best position to calm your nerves and prepare for the polygraph.


Can You Beat a Polygraph Exam?

It’s highly unlikely that you can “beat” a polygraph exam if you’re guilty. If you’re trying to cover up your actions or lie in the lie detector test, you’re going to have to have complete control over the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response occurs when the adrenal system floods the body with adrenaline and the hormone cortisol. The influx of these compounds into the bloodstream causes a heightening of the senses. It’s the effect you feel when you’re alone somewhere at night and hear a spooky sound.

Your senses become heightened, your heart starts pounding, and you feel like running or standing your ground and fighting off a potential threat. The polygraph initiates this response when you have to lie about a question the examiner asks you.

When your mind hears the question, it launches the fight-or-flight response. It’s an autonomic process, like breathing. That’s why you don’t have to think about breathing because the sympathetic nervous system manages these processes without conscious thought.

So, you’ll have to know how to overcome the sympathetic nervous response to external stimuli to beat the polygraph. It’s possible, but very few people can achieve this feat. In most cases, it takes them years or decades of practice and medication to overcome these natural, instinctive bodily reactions.

Good luck to you if you’re trying to do that for the first time in the polygraph exam.


What are the Chances I’ll Fail the Polygraph Exam?

There’s always a chance you’ll fail the polygraph exam. However, in most cases, if you’re telling the truth, you won’t have any problems with it. If you have the unfortunate experience of failing, it’s not the end of the world. Chances are your nerves were responsible for the problem, and your boss might let you take the polygraph again if you explain your reasons for feeling jittery during the exam.

The examiner will also notify your boss if they think your nerves were the cause of your failing the exam. So, it’s not something to stress about. If you have to repeat the exam, you’ll be better prepared for it the second time and likely pass it with flying colors.

However, if you fail and your prospective employer decides not to hire you or your employer decides to fire you, it’s also not the end of the world. The employer may not disclose the results of your polygraph test to any other employer. So, it won’t affect you if you’re looking for another job.


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