Tag Archives: stress management

Is calming down really the best way to achieve peak performance? Alison Wood Brooks, Ph.D. doesn’t think so: Individuals often feel anxious in anticipation of tasks such as speaking in public or meeting with a boss. I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety. However, across several studies involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance, I investigate an alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. The studies Brooks refers to suggest that getting excited rather than relaxed is a more effective way to reduce performance anxiety. In one experiment that many high school students can relate to, 188 participants were given difficult math problems after they read “try to get excited” or “try to remain calm.” As a comparison, a control group didn’t read any statement. Participants in the excited group scored 8 percent higher on…

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The Guardian released an excerpt of the upcoming book, The Best: How Elite Athletes Are Made by A Mark Williams and Tim Wigmore, as a strong standalone article titled Under pressure: why athletes choke. As the kind of coach who helps teens excel on a different field of play than the one the authors focused on, I wondered how many of their insights carried from athletic competition to academic competition. I needn’t have worried, as sports analogies almost universally apply to testing. I recommend the full article, especially if you are not put off by descriptions of cricket matches. However, for fast reference, I’ve highlighted some key passages with corresponding support on the test prep side: “Failure to manage anxiety and cope with the demands at a crucial moment can lead to a catastrophic drop in performance, known as choking. As the pressure in a match rises, so can an…

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This past year has been stressful for all of us, especially high school students. If you’re not sure how hard the COVID era has hit teens, just ask your school counselor how much social and emotional distress increased starting in the spring of 2020. Our support networks and coping strategies have had to adjust to account for social distancing and distance learning. During this current health crisis, mental health needs to be treated with the same urgency as physical health among adolescents: 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. Teens need healthy outlets for stress so they can grow into resilient adults. New York State Mental Health Resources and Training Center shares essential information, current practices, and guidance on mental health from the NYS Education Department. Here are some valuable tips for families: Talk openly about mental health. When we…

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Test anxiety is truly an unruly beast, eager to sabotage us during our most important moments. Fortunately, all kinds of strategies work well at taming this beast. If you’ve ever struggled with maintaining peak performance in the face of stress, consider adding expressive writing to your arsenal. Expressive writing?! Gerardo Ramirez and Sian L. Beilock, researchers from the University of Chicago, unraveled an interesting knot of interactions: – Worries lead to poor test performance. – Expressive writing helps regulate worries. – Expressive writing should lead to better test performance. These researchers devised a series of tests to test their hypothesis that expressive writing benefits high-stakes test performance, especially for students who tend to worry in testing situations, by reducing rumination. They created a high-stakes math testing environment in their lab and amped up the pressure among subjects. Then, subjects spent 10 min either sitting quietly (control group) or writing as…

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Everyone knows that setting priorities is a necessary skill to manage stress, but deciding which priorities to tend to when everything feels important can bring more stress. Instead of succumbing to procrastination or anxiety, try these five steps to determine what really matters in your life in order to get the ball rolling now:   1. Make a list Write down every goal you want to accomplish. Think about long-term goals as well as short-term goals. Include goals from every aspect of life including education, work, family, and social goals. 2. Assess the value of each goal on your list This step requires an understanding of the big picture. Discern what is most valuable by thinking about the end result of each goal. Start with long-term goals first and rate each goal based on the value you associate with completing each goal. 3. Work backwards Start with the number one…

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For so many of us, test day comes as a relief. At last, we can complete that solemn task we worked weeks, perhaps even months, to master. But after the test, a different sort of stress creeps in. We are, for once, powerless to control out destinies. Instead, we must wait for our scores. How do you wait? Do you distract yourself in order to think of anything but those scores? Do you assume an air of calm, acknowledging that worrying won’t change a thing? Do you freak out and brood over all the worst-case scenarios?   We generally envy the cool customers, imagining that remaining unfazed by events beyond our control is the most adaptive stance to assume. Researchers from the University of California, Riverside discovered a more surprising connection between waiting and stress: “Participants who suffered through a waiting period marked by anxiety, rumination, and pessimism responded more…

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