We are all aware of how our performance suffers under pressure and stressful situations. We freeze, and our minds don’t function as well as they normally do. There is an evolutionary reason for this, according to neuroscientists. For early humans facing danger, usually in the form of some large predator, higher order thought processes were actually a disadvantage. Early humans needed to react quickly with a fight or flight response, and higher order thinking was an impediment to this response, so our bodies evolved to shut it down in these kinds of situations.

Controlling the Deeper Levels

We all have difficulty controlling our thoughts in difficult situations, and at deeper levels, our feelings and emotions. But neuroscientists have found that we can gain more control of these things by focusing on the deepest level of all – the physiological level, the level where the biological processes of the body play out. By gaining more control at this level, we can in turn exert influence over the higher levels.

When we are in stressful situations, neuroscientists have found that our heartbeat becomes more erratic, as well as our breathing. And they have found that by controlling our breathing, we can exert control over our heart rate, which in turn enables our minds to function effectively in stress filled situations.

How to Breathe

It doesn’t actually matter how fast or slow you breathe. What is important is that your breathing is smooth and rhythmic. Rhythmic means that inhaling and exhaling are the same, that you take the same amount of time to exhale as you do to inhale. So, for example, if you inhale for a four-count, you need to exhale for the same four-count.

Your breathing also needs to be smooth, that is, without sudden changes or interruptions, such as a staccato inhalation. Neuroscientists have found with this steady, rhythmic breathing, your heart rate becomes more steady and regular as well. And this in turn enables you to think more clearly.

This process involves more than just taking a few deep breaths, but something that is done consistently. It enables people to gain more control over their thoughts and emotions so that they can perform better, especially in more stress-filled situations.

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