I just watched the first episode of this season’s Amazing Race. While the show is ridiculous in many ways, V and I do enjoy watching it together – and watching it makes me knit faster.
But one of the things that strikes me when I watch is that the competitors on the race rarely know how to help their partner get calm and focused in times of stress. Usually the pair end up bickering and yelling, often saying things like ‘Stop talking to me!’ and ‘Com’on, you’re not trying hard enough.’ Sure, this may be the kind of drama that drives up ratings, but I hope nobody is actually taking any sort of life lessons from these guys.
And while I don’t expected to be invited on the Amazing Race as a life coach, if I could take these competitors aside and give them some of my humble advice, it would likely look something like this:
In times of stress, the brain and body retreat into a ‘fight or flight’ state in which things like logic, problem-solving skills and short-term memory take the back seat to a racing heart rate and muscles coiled for flight. If the problem you two are facing requires someone to use a higher part of the brain, then you need to help your partner get calm and focused – which obviously will not be accomplished by yelling and reminding of failure and ticking clocks.
So how to calm down in times of high stress? Stop, drop and roll if you’re on fire. If you mind is on fire – stop, straighten and breathe. Stop what you are doing and stop thinking about what you need to be doing. Sure, stopping seems like the last thing you should do if you are racing the clock – but you can’t be effective anyway if your mind is in panic mode. One minute of self-calming will save you many minutes of futile rushing.
Stand straight. Push down your shoulders. Stretch your head up high. Breathe deeply and slowly.
You don’t need to sit and meditate, but a few deep breaths can help you release yourself from the panic state and focus on what you need to do.