Reactions Under Pressure

This week when 80-year-old Helen Collins of the United States found herself in the stressful situation of being mid-air in a single engine Cessna, with her pilot husband tragically collapsed and dead at her side, she stayed calm and remembered her basic flight training taken 30 years prior allowing her to successfully land the plane and be reunited with her children. Coincidentally a new study, that has found that the activity in different regions of your brain can determine if you will succeed or fold in stressful situations, links up quite well to the Collins story.  The results of the study, conducted by Andrew Mattarella-Micke and Sian Beilock of the University of Chicago, show that if we shut off the section of the brain that deals with emotions we will more likely not falter when pressure is applied. It is arguable that Collins was able to succeed in her dire situation by utilizing regions of her brain “that have been linked to working memory”, the intraparietal sulcus and the inferior frontal junction, while simultaneously ignoring the third section, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, that is thought to be responsible for our emotions. And it goes without saying that 80-year-old American women are not the only people who are controlled by the activity of their brain.  Czech hockey player Patrik Štefan would recall an event in his career that aligns quite nicely with the Chicago study.  In 2007 Štefan made a mortifying error while playing for the Dallas Stars against the Edmonton Oilers.  During the game he had an opportunity to score from a foot away on an empty net but missed and then tripped; Edmonton took the loose puck end-to-end and scored the game-tying goal with seconds left on the clock (see the embarrassing mishap here).  The poor lad had been talked up so much early in his career (drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft), almost being set up for failure if you ask me, but never lived up to the expectations.  His collapse under pressure may not have been coincidence at all, but a manifestation of his emotional response to that pressure. A lesson to be learned; if it is absolutely necessary to put yourself under pressure, keep your emotions out of it and remember, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS | The Ontarian, Writer, Editor

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