Some of you suffer from bouts of anxiety. Whether it’s forgetting an assignment, blanking on your boss’s name, managing the household, or not getting the results you want, you’ve all experienced that “choked” feeling. There are simple “tricks” that can help you.
I came across a book by psychologist Sian Beilock, who wrote Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal about Getting It Right When You Have To. What she has to say is very interesting and relevant.
Under stress, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that manages decision-making, analysis, and working memory) can get bogged down in worry, preventing you from automatically accessing the information you need to perform. Instead, you wind up second-guessing your every move out of fear of making a mistake (analysis paralysis!)
Beilock has discovered that you can pull yourself out of the spiral of worry by distracting the brain. Try these anxiety-busting tricks:
- Make music. Singing or whistling can enhance your automatic response by freeing the working memory that gets overloaded when you micromanage details.
- Meditate. Beilock found that people who had just 10 minutes of meditation training scored better on tests.
- Squeeze your left hand. Psychologists found that right-handed people who tightly clenched their left hand also performed better on high-stakes tasks. This behavior fires up the brain’s right hemisphere, which controls your automatic responses, and may help suppress worry.
- Assume a “power pose”. Standing tall, legs out, chin elevated, arms up and out or hands of the hips (think Super Hero), boosts testosterone and our dominant tendencies in both men and women, while lowering the stress hormone cortisol. You feel more powerful and confident rather than nervous.
- Shake it out. Dancing to a song you love, jumping up and down, belly laughing or anything else that gets your body and brain fired up before your performance can keep the butterflies at bay.
- Nap. A 10-minute doze before your task can improve cognitive function and performance.
What I love about what Beilock emphasizes is that anxiety is a signal “of being alive”. So let’s stop interpreting the signals that you will fail. Instead, use the strategies to keep from over-analyzing so your nerves can actually help you cope with the pressure.
Hope this leaves you feeling your “tool kit” is well equipped 🙂