The Strategist

Achieving Maximum Results in Stressful Situations

12/04/2015 - 14:19

Preparing for a ‘Day X’ takes weeks, months, and even years in sports, business, education and science. Once the day has come ... and everything goes awry. You take wrong documents to the meeting, stammer during your speech, cannot do easy sums, cannot strike the ball ... In other words, when everything is at stake, the bottom falls out, and you hit a crushing blow on the life and career.

Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen
Sian Beilock, a leading expert in research of a brain’s behavior in difficult situations, tells in her book "Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To" how to permanently deal with this problem.

Here’s some tips.

Confirm your self-esteem. Before an important exam or a performance, describe to yourself your interests and activities. In the process of doing it, you will strengthen your self-esteem, self-confidence and chances of success.

Write down the facts that prove your attainments. Before going on an important exam, spend five minutes making a list of your abilities and talents. This will give you an opportunity to highlight for yourself that this exam or test does not determine all your giftedness. This will help ease the stress load.

List your anxiety and excitement. Before the test or performance, spend 10 minutes to write down your experiences in connection with the upcoming tryout. This should reduce the burden of doubt and anxiety, which are associated with stressful situations.

Try a little meditation to relieve stress and eliminate anxiety. Teach your mind not to dwell on the problems but identify them instead, in order to push them aside. Here, the meditation can be the most helpful. It also helps you gather all your intellectual energy to solve the problem.

Think in defiance of existing stereotypes. Think of the qualities that may determine success. For example, instead of focusing on the thoughts of your belonging to those groups that are based on gender or race not capable of, say, mathematics, remind yourself of your accomplishments. Maybe you are studying in a prestigious university or are excellent in other fields. Think about your strengths to achieve success in the upcoming events.

Give reassess to your physiological reactions. If your palms became clammy and heart began to beat with a high frequency, remember that the same physiological responses occur in pleasant moments (for example, meeting your beloved one). If you learn to give yourself a positive interpretation under stress ("My body is set up for success in this test!") Rather than negative ("I’m done..."), your body will be your ally in the fight against stress factors.

Pause before you start. Sometimes, when facing challenges that requires a significant investment of working memory resources, it is very useful to step back for finding an optimal answer. Kind of an "incubation period" can help you get rid of excessive focus on irrelevant details and look at the problem in a new way. You may get the insight and you will succeed.

Train, simulating the stress load. The old adage, that only studying long enough gives skills, is not quite true. You have to learn in conditions close to those in which your skills will be tested. With regard to exams, this is work in a limited time and lack of clues. These psychological studies indicate that a self-test on the studied material (rather than repeating it) allows learning better and remember the information for a long time. In the end, the exams will assess your knowledge. So get used to such inspections in the course of independent work.

Release the brain from unnecessary burdens. Write down your interim steps proposed to address the problem. Do not keep everything in your head. The paper will be an independent storage of information, not exposed to anxiety and feelings, as opposed to the prefrontal cortex. As a result, it decreases the likelihood that you can confuse something or forget important details during the test. Organize your knowledge. If you can adopt reasonable methods of structuring the information before an important exam or performance, you unload your working memory and help memorize something even more important.

Based on "Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To" by Sian Beilock

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