|A little pressure just makes us better, no? Now researchers know why tough challenges makes it easier for some of us to perform at our best a part, while it locks up completely for others.
Learn the tricks that will help you deliver, whether it is for work, school or when it comes to interactions with people in general.
- One of the main reasons why people fail in pressure situations is that they do not use their, so called, working memory properly. Some people calls this your short-term memory. Either they do not have enough working memory to support the task at hand, or they just try to hard.
That we are affected by the pressure created by a vulnerable situation is in itself nothing new, you feel it when you're there. But with the help of new technologies some researchers are now able to look into our brains to see what happens there when we fail. Stress affects our brains so that we begin to behave in a different way than we usually do. And when we do so, it produces a different result than what we had planned. Usually it will worse, sometimes, even really, really bad.
The size of our working memory is hereditary. When we stand before a group to give a presentation, or to do a test, it is our working memory we rely on and that should do the work. Our working memory sits in the front of the brain and helps us to manage and organize all the information we need to complete our assignment. Everything would be brilliant if it were not for the pressure to succeed also stepping in and taking up space in our working memory. So we start thinking things like - What if I forget, or, what if that guy in the corner start's giving me bad looks? Those thoughts do not cause of to be distracted, they also use up space so that we do not have enough brain power left to what we are here/there to do. And when this is strong enough to have an impact on our ability, that's when we start making stupid mistakes.
One way to fix this is to train your working memory. Although the size of it is hereditary it is still possible to train it to function better when dealing with pressure. You can do this by trying to solve complicated puzzles, word games, solving complex tasks - and in fact by playing computer and video games. They will allow you to practice holding more information in your head simultaneously. What is interesting to know, that even this will not get you to be perfect. Some research suggest that the people who have the greatest working memory, were also the ones who most easily failed in pressure situations. - It turned out that people with high working memory relies entirely on being able to use it fully. So when it gets knocked out from stress, they don't know any other way to tackle the problem so they often begin to take chances, ending up doing a lot worse then they would normally do.
So what can we do to best succeed under pressure?
Empty yourself of anxiety, or anything else that is un-related to the task at hand
Spend ten minutes before a presentation or test writing down everything you worry about. It can erase the doubt in yourself and the anxiety you have before the task.
You can also train your brain to not get stuck in negative thoughts, but let them float away, for example through meditation.
Take a break
If you can not solve the problem - leave it for a while to let your working memory rest. After a few minutes, you might already have enough capacity again to solve the problem.
Monitor yourself and your reactions
Sweaty palms and a racing heart is the body's reaction to stress. But the same things happens in fact when we meet our true love. Learn how to interpret the body's reactions in a positive way: "I am ready for this exam now" rather than saying to yourself "Oh, god, I'm just too nervous, I won't make it!" Take control of your thoughts and steer them in the right direction, then you a much better chance of success.
Forget about stereotypes
"Girls are bad at math" or "working guys can not study further." Stereotypical expectations of how we should perform have an impact on our performance. It created a barrier that can be very difficult to break down. We think that we are not supposed to succeed, because of this or that Stereotypical reason. And even if we don't fully believe in them, these thought around them will end up taking up space in your working memory. Identify stereotypes that effect you, and remind yourself of all the things that makes it not true. Whatever you need to do to get around the problem.