There are a lot of critical moments in everyone's life to which we commit long and diligent preparations. We have a dread of doing something wrong but, as ill luck would have it, everything goes haywire. We begin to stutter while giving a speech, or we suddenly forget everything we've learned right in the middle of the exam. It seems like it's game over. What exactly happens to us at this moment? It is just that events like these are high-stress. However, it's possible to learn how to settle your nerves before encountering these moments, and to bring back your A-game. This is the topic of the book called Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To by Sian Beilock, the world's leading expert in the field of research into the brain's reaction in stressful situations. Herein we'll cite some of her recommendations.
Boost your self-confidence
First of all, you should remember all your accomplishments: your accomplishments in your field, awards, achievements – basically, everything that will raise your self-confidence. Write them down on a piece of paper. This exercise will help you to assure yourself that you are prepared to overcome a stressful situation. For instance, you have already successfully passed a few exams; moreover, you got top marks, so you should be able to do it again. The famous golfer Tiger Woods says that before a tournament he constantly repeats the following words to himself, “I’ve already done that a thousand times. I will make it this time, too.”
Identify your strong points
The next thing you should do is to call to mind all your talents and abilities. Remember everything that you are able to do well. After this exercise you will realize that you possess a good many strong suits. Therefore, the pending event that frightens you so much doesn’t define your abilities and potential. Is there any use to feeling so agitated about it? This isn’t the only skill you have.
Understand your fears
The time has come to put all your phobias and inner emotions down on paper. Spend 10 minutes and describe in vivid colors all the worst scenarios that could happen. Then take a look at what you wrote. Is it possible that the dangers you face are as terrible as you imagined them? Not at all! From now on you’ll feel relieved, because your most troublesome thoughts won’t creep into your head anymore since they’ve been “left” on paper.
Meditation helps us to set our minds at rest and to overcome anxiety. If you’ve never meditated before, you should follow these instructions: find a secluded spot where no one will bother you for 10 to 15 minutes. Sit comfortably on a chair or a sofa, close your eyes, and start breathing deeply. Concentrate only on your breathing. Exhale and inhale no more than 4 to 6 times in a minute. Soon you will notice that you’ve not only calmed your nerves but also have begun to think more clearly.
Take your body under control
Pay attention to the way you move and speak while under stress. Surely you are making abrupt movements, and you are speaking hastily and incoherently. Moreover, you are exacerbating the situation by swallowing one cup of espresso after another. We can easily put ourselves in a state of anxiety just by taking the aforementioned actions. It is like an alarm signal for our bodies. You can calm yourself down in a similar fashion just by taking your body under control. If you are feeling anxious, then try to move smoothly and to talk slowly. And quit drinking coffee!
Take a pause
If an unexpected incident has happened, and you want to fix the problem as quickly as possible, it would be better if you didn’t try to do it all at once. Finding a proper solution requires time. Take a break, and take your mind off your problems. Only then can you tackle the issue with a clear head.
Practice by imitating the process
In order to be better prepared for the X day, you should imagine that it has already come. If you are preparing for a public speech, then put on the clothes you want to wear to this event and hold a microphone. Imagine that hundreds of eyes are looking at you. In case your X day is a difficult exam, you should create an environment with time pressure, where you won’t be able to take a sneak peek into your textbooks. You can ask a friend to take the role of a strict teacher. Create the conditions which most closely resemble reality. Keep practicing until you feel certain that your knees won’t start shaking at the most crucial moment.
The effect of “not a big deal”
First of all, think whether this event will be of any importance to you in five years’ time, and whether you will even still remember it. Second, remember that the phrase “Whatever happens, happens for the best” was spoken for a reason. For instance, Steven R. Covey, a well-known consultant and professional public speaker, had been striving for a successful athletic career but, unfortunately, he got injured at a young age and after that he couldn’t participate in sporting events. After his accident, he got engrossed in the work which led him to the creation of the course and the book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
You should never be afraid of making a mistake. It’s not a big deal if you make one, and besides, it might lead you to better things.
Based on the book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To (purchase in English or in Russian).
This article was written in collaboration with Mann, Ivanov & Ferber Publishing House.
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