Training Your Brain to Deal With Stress

Lester Sandman, MD, receives referrals for patients with psychiatric conditions who have attempted to find help elsewhere through counseling, medications, and other treatments without success. On his website, Dr. Lester Sandman offers links to a variety of articles about mental and psychological health, such as Excel Under Pressure.

In her article titled Excel Under Pressure: Prepping for Stress Can Enhance Your Response, Megan Johnson describes a common problem when people face too much stress. In colloquial terms, they have a brain freeze. Johnson attributes the problem not to the working of the brain, although the prefrontal cortex is involved, but rather to people’s tendencies to ignore the capabilities of their automatic response and instead focus on the importance of the moment.

For instance, if a politician stands up in front of the camera, he or she may suddenly blank out on how to continue. Or, in another case, a student may do poorly on an exam after doing well on a practice test for that exam. They may have prepared well, but when it comes to the important moment, they focus on the consequences of that moment rather than the current task. In order to avoid this, Johnson suggests preparing for that important event with a situation that simulates stress, but at a lower level. That, she says, is enough.

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