Write Down Your Feelings Before Undertaking A High-Pressure Task

Being under pressure can turn even the most skilled person into a floundering moron. To deal with your anxiety before a high-pressure situation, write down your worries before you get started.

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As news site Vox explains, writing down how you’re feeling (while perhaps cheesy) can take the edge off and help you get a handle on your emotions. The idea is that externalising your thoughts helps alleviate the tension of holding in your worries. This frees you up to perform at your usual peak:

Beilock’s research group has also shown several times that writing about one’s feelings before a test can help. In a study published in Science in 2011, they explored this by having college students take a very difficult maths exam. (Sara Reardon has a good summary for Science’s news section.) To boost up the pressure, the researchers put some cash on the line and videotaped them and told them the tape would be shown to their teachers and friends. And if that wasn’t enough, they also told the students that a partner in the experiment had already taken the test, performed well, and would disappointed if they didn’t do well, too. Eek.

But those who were told to write about their feelings for 10 minutes before the test did better than those in a comparison group who simply wrote about an event in their past. This trick worked outside the laboratory, too. The researchers repeated the experiment with real-life ninth graders taking a real-life final exam and got similar results.

Of course, you can’t always write down what you’re feeling before every high-pressure situation. However, for situations like tests, speeches or job interviews, you have plenty of time to plan ahead. Besides, writing in a notebook before an important meeting can only make you look better, right? Check out the Vox’s article for more tips on dealing with high-pressure situations.

The science of choking under pressure — and how to avoid it [Vox]

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