“YOU LIKE THAT!” Do some High Stakes Performers respond differently to overarousal? By Lorie Hood

Kirk Cousins is a High Stakes Performer. There I said it.

I have been watching Cousins and his performance for a long time. He is what I call a disparate High Stakes Performer (dHSP) meaning that his development has been qualitatively different that of most High Stakes Performers (HSP). So what is different about Kirk Cousins? He has had a more difficult time training and un-training his reptilian brain than many QB’s his age. The good news? If he remains healthy and takes advantage of the latest science on training and un-training (what I call “training around”) his reptilian brain, he will only get better (and better, and better).

So, why has Cousins had more difficulty maintaining an optimal level of arousal? Most likely because his line between optimal arousal and over arousal is very thin. And why is his line between optimal-arousal and over-arousal so thin?  There could be myriad reasons, however, the reasons aren’t as important as the difference it necessitates in his training. Getting to his reptilian brain and engaging it differently will be the key to Cousins meeting his potential.

The current research in neurobiology, psychology and human performance shows that the shape of a specific individual’s arousal-performance curve depends on intervening variables. This is much more nuanced than the long-standing (yet still very relevant) model published over a century ago (Yerkes and Dodson 1908). Some of the “intervening variables” that has been identified in the trauma and human performance research literature impact how quickly an individual responds to stress (becomes aroused), how high their arousal peaks and how slowly it returns to normal. This has huge implications on training and performance.

Who are the other QB’s who have likely struggled with this same issue? They are Dan Marino, Tony Romo, Boomer Esiason, Joe Montana, Steve McNair, and Ken Stabler. Who are those who may have benefited from paying closer attention to their optimal level of arousal and training their reptilian brains differently? They are Kurt Warner, Daunte Culpepper, Chad PenningtonJeff Garcia, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan.

Interestingly, a number of these quarterbacks were not immediate starters in the NFL however, once they did become starters they improved quickly. Perhaps the psychological benefit of becoming a starting QB and the support that came with it leveled their arousal curve and allowed them to play more often within their optimal level of arousal.

Resources:

Diamond, D. M. (2005). Cognitive, Endocrine and Mechanistic Perspectives on Non-Linear Relationships Between Arousal and Brain Function. Nonlinearity in Biology, Toxicology, Medicine, 3(1), 1–7. http://doi.org/10.2201/nonlin.003.01.001

How Long Does It Take Great Quarterbacks To Break out?

 

 

The New Nightcap

Ahh, the nightcap. Seems to help you relax and fall asleep but research shows that alcohol actually disrupts sleep. A new review of 27 studies shows that alcohol does not improve sleep quality. According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. I addition, “We don’t just need sleep, we need high quality sleep” says Lorie Hood who is a human performance researcher. “REM sleep is more mentally restorative and is crucial not only to performance but to basic health, states Hood.

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Alcohol tricks people into thinking they are getting better sleep, says Scott Krakower, DO who is an addiction specialist. “People who drink alcohol often think their sleep is improved, but it is not.”

So, what’s a sleep starved gal or guy to do?

Try this blended chamomile latte for a nightcap that actually works.

It packs several ingredients that help promote a good night’s sleep. Chamomile tea is an evidence-based remedy for insomnia. Cherries provide melatonin, the hormone that helps us feel sleepy. And coconut oil and almond butter give us stable blood sugar overnight while almond butter has the added benefit of magnesium and tryptophan to promote sleepiness. Collagen and raw honey can also help us sleep through the night.

 

Ingredients:

  • Freshly brewed chamomile tea
  • Optional: add cinnamon, cloves, and star anise to the tea
  • ¼ cup frozen organic cherries
  • 1 tablespoon sprouted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon collagen
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon raw honey

Step 1: Brew your chamomile tea. Add cinnamon, clove, and star anise to the tea mixture.

Step 2: While your tea is brewing, add the cherries. You can also buy cherry juice concentrate. Hood recommends Montmorency cherries for their higher concentrations of melatonin and what studies suggest are anti-cancer properties. Add almond butter, coconut oil and collagen to the blender.

Step 3: Once your tea has steeped for a few minutes, add it to the blender and blend.

Optional Step 4: Sprinkle your finished latte with cinnamon powder.

 

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20130118/alcohol-sleep

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25639/the-one-tonic-i-recommend-for-amazing-sleep-an-m-d-explains.html?utm_content=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=160703&utm_source=mbg

Stop Choking in High-Stakes Situations

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Why do otherwise high performers underperform when the stakes are raised?

  1. Because you take conscious control which undermines your practice.

The reason practice leads to competency is because it outsources skills from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind so you can perform those skills automatically.

We take for granted many of the skills controlled by our subconscious. Think of something you’re good at and break it down to the individual skills involved. For example, driving, which is automatic for most people, requires many skills. You need mechanical coordination to work the pedals and steering wheel, visual perception to stay in the lane and avoid accidents, and symbol recognition to read road signs and the various gauges on your dashboard. Let’s not forget the processing power to make quick decisions based on all of that information.

Despite having to use these skills simultaneously while driving, we no longer need to pay conscious attention to them. This extra brain power frees us to listen to audiobooks, carry a conversation, and even eat and drink while still smoothly driving to our destination.

For any skill, the more your subconscious takes over, the better you’ll be (granted you practice the skill properly).

All top performers outsource many of their skills to their subconscious. That’s why it looks effortless, because it is.

So what does this have to do with underperformance?

You underperform when you take conscious control of skills that have already been outsourced to the subconscious.

What you can do differently: Trust yourself and the time you’ve put in to practice. For situations where you’re executing a rehearsed skill, you are better off letting your subconscious stay in control. Of course, if you’ve been practicing bad habits, you will automatically perform in a less optimal way whether or not you consciously take control. To practice properly, get strong coaches that will give you specific feedback during your practice sessions.

2. Because you leave the present moment.

Think back to your best performances. What was going through your mind? You probably can’t remember thinking about anything. You were just in the moment — doing, not thinking.

Throughout our lives, we collect experiences and file them away for future use. Before high-stakes situations, our brain searches for and reviews similar experiences. It then projects the outcomes of those past experiences as the outcome for our upcoming situation. So if we’ve underperformed before when the stakes were high, we’re more likely to underperform again.

In addition to our own experiences, seeing others perform poorly can influence us as well. If your mind is filled with examples of people being nervous and freezing up during a speech, what do you think will happen right before your turn to speak?

When you flashback to the past to predict your future, you usually don’t take into account all of the training and practice that has occurred since that experience. A key idea to keep in mind is that your past experience is obsolete.

What you can do differently: Mentally rehearse successful outcomes. All memories are reconstructions, and your brain cannot tell which memories really happened and which ones were made up. Collect positive experiences to create a positive future. This will bring confidence as opposed to anxiety and self-doubt.

To focus on the now, pay attention to the input from your five senses. If you’re in a meeting, notice your breathing, the sounds in the room and the faces of your teammates. When your mind is occupied with the now, it won’t slip into the past or the future.

3. You phrase your thoughts in the negative.

The most common phrase people tell themselves when they have to perform in a high stakes situation is:

Don’t mess up.

Whether they’re thinking this or saying it out loud, it usually leads to one result:

Messing up.

When you tell yourself not to do something, you cannot help but to imagine doing it. Some people take it one step further and start “catastrophizing.” They imagine how performing poorly in this one presentation will destroy their careers. When your entire career is in jeopardy, it’s hard to stay relaxed and perform at your best.

What you can do differently: Focus on what you want to happen. If you are giving a big talk, tell yourself to “be engaging” as opposed to “don’t be boring.”

Deep down, we all want to do well. That is natural and normal. That is also why we put in the long hours. When the stakes are high, don’t try to rise to the occasion. Do what you’ve practiced to do and let it happen. If you’ve trained hard enough, you’ll do well. If you don’t get the results you want, train harder next time. Results are in the past and cannot be changed in the present.

Learn and move on.

To perform well in any situation:

  • Trust your skills and all of the time you spent practicing.
  • Visualize vividly the result you want before your performance.
  • Focus on your five senses to stay in the present in the moment.
  • Let go of the results and just do.

 

 

 

Source: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/top-3-reasons-why-you-choke-under-pressure.html

(Adapted from original article – Three Reasons Why You Choke Under Pressure)

 

 

Basic Science (emphasis on basic) behind Trauma Informed Work

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Western science generally separates the human mind into two broad categories; the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is responsible for things like short-term memory, logical and analytical thinking, and decision making (as in thinking on one’s feet); it is the part of our mind of which we are aware. The subconscious mind holds long-term memory, belief systems, associations, perceptions (and a whole lot more) and is the part of our mind that is, well, not so accessible. The conscious mind is able to process about 40 bits of information per second while the subconscious mind is believed to process upwards of 40 million bits per second. The take away here is not how many “bits” of information an average conscious or subconscious mind can process per second (after all, what constitutes a “bit” of information  depends on an operational definition). The take away is the phrase “a whole lot.” The unconscious mind processes information a whole lot faster than the conscious mind (see “emphasis on basic” in above title).

“Why should I care about my subconscious mind and what does it have to do with trauma?”

Our conscious and subconscious minds process information very differently and without training, do not communicate with one another effectively. When we are stressed, our subconscious minds take over and we lose partial (or complete) access to our more conscious processes. This is how our subconscious mind doing its job.

Our subconscious mind has evolved to keep us safe. When we feel unsafe (and it is largely our unconscious mind that makes this determination) we transition into a more defensive state of consciousness that can feel like wariness on one end of a spectrum to a state of complete overwhelm known as fight or flight, on the other. The degree to which we our subconscious mind takes over and we move to the fight/flight end of the continuum is commensurate with access to our conscious mind – the more we transition into fight/flight, the less access we have to our conscious processes.