Nova Science Now this week was about the brain and how it exhibits intelligence and memory. An interesting segment was on how we can choke in hi-stress situations, like an interview, exam, or, as in the case of the scientist working in this area, being the goalie in a soccer game when an important talent scout is in the audience.
Turns out the part of the brain connected with emotions can interfere with the part that is trying to get the work done. Sort of like jamming radio frequencies.
The answer? Relieve the emotional part by spending some time writing down your worries and concerns before beginning the stressful task. On the show, they worked with a group of high school students who were about to take a tough biology exam. Half the group just sat there doing nothing for 10 minutes, and the other half spent that time journaling – they wrote down everything that came up for them at the moment. How worried they were about the exam of course, but also other items they were stressing over as well as inspiring reminders like “Breathe! Breathe!”
The final result – the average grade for the non-journalers was a B-, while those who had a chance to let out their worries averaged B+.
In Zen Mindfulness we call this emotional place Storyland. Nothing wrong with the worries and the narratives we weave there! But when we recognize we’re in that place it’s time to step back into the objective realm called Orientation. This is often easy, but what about when our stories are so sticky we just can’t let them go? Here journaling could be very helpful. Physically writing them down relieves the intensity. After 10 minutes of writing, how much easier is it to step back from the story?