Our brain is built to help us survive. When we feel like we are put on to do a special project for work that we do not feel ready for or you feel pressured to get on that airplane you are terrified of, you tend to choke and run away. By gaining a real understanding of your body when you choke, you will be more prepared on what to do to prevent that from happening again.

Why We Choke Under Pressure

According to Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Srini Pillay, one reason is because of “distraction theory” where we are too distracted by our fear of failure, are overly impulsive, and lose control of what is important and needs to be done. Another reason is because of “explicit monitoring” where we make conscious step-by-step efforts instead of following our instincts. This causes our brains to not work like they used to. A third reason is that we tend to feel overwhelmed when we are pressured which causes us to overcompensate and choke. This tends to happen to people like athletes who feel pressured to win the game for their team and their fans as well as people who work high-stake jobs.

How to Prevent Choking in Times of Stress

Focus on the success that you have achieved before in your life. This will give you the confidence to accomplish this task that is making you choke in that if you were able to make important accomplishments in the past, any problems you have now will be solved as well. You should also learn to trust yourself and prevent overthinking in every scenario. Allow your instincts to kick in for low-risk tasks every once in a while. If you are experiencing any fears right now, write them down and let them live only on paper. According to the study “Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Exam Performance in the Classroom,” students were able to get better grades on their tests when they wrote out their worries in advance.

You can also ask yourself what the worst-case scenario would be if you failed at this task and what your backup plan would be to be better prepared. Lastly, see what happens to your body when you choke like sweaty palms or racing hearts. By doing what you can to relieve the pressure off yourself, you will lessen your chances of choking in a stressful situation.


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