A New Way to Reduce Pressure and Avoid Choking

A new study came out recently from the science journal, Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience that discovered a new way to help reduce pressure and avoid choking. Researchers Simon Dunne, Vikram S. Chib, Joseph Berleant, John P. O’Doherty found that there's a way to reappraise an incentive/reward to help reduce pressure and avoid choking.

This reappraisal, which is a form of self-talk, involves pretending that you already have the prize, and you're performing to keep it. This attitude, according to the researchers, improves performance more than thinking of the prize as something that you don't have and you must win to have it. Along with providing evidence from activity in the brain associated with motor skills, the researchers say that this way of looking at incentives helps because it calms your emotions, which helps you execute your motor skills better.


Think about it, if you're kicking a field goal in the final seconds for the chance to win the game (and if you miss, you lose the game), which attitude will calm your nerves more?

As you're walking onto the field, you could think, "If I make this, we win. If I miss this, we lose." Or you could pretend that you already have the 3 points, and you're just kicking to keep them.

The first attitude usually puts more pressure on you than pretending that you already have the 3 points and you're just kicking to keep them. Even though there's still something on the line, the thought of having already won helps calm you down. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the thought of losing a prize you have is less scary than the thought of failing to win a prize. Likewise, "I could have kept the prize" is a less heartbreaking feeling than "I could have won the prize," because at least you had the prize temporarily.

Here is another way to apply this reappraisal strategy. Heading into a championship game, a coach can tell his or her team that they're already champions and that they're just playing this game to prove that they are the champions and to keep their trophy.

This isn't the only way to reduce pressure and avoid choking. There's many other ways in which you can handle pressure effectively, which I've written about here, but this reappraisal strategy can be another helpful tip that you can use in certain situations. Also, 
this reappraisal strategy can easily be paired with other performance tips to help you perform under pressure. For example, after using this reappraisal strategy to reduce anxiety, you can then take a deep breath, embrace the pressure, visualize success, and focus on the task at hand in order to improve performance. A key thing to remember is that not every performance tip is meant for everyone. Therefore you need to experiment and find what works best for you.

If you want to read more about this study, you can read this article by Christian Jarrett. A link to the actual study can be found here.

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