We’ve all been there, pressure, whether it’s sinking that last perfectly placed pool ball, or watching the Protea’s eternal struggle to win something significant.

We are all familiar with ‘choking’, performing below what was needed, despite having put in enough preparation before the time. Turns out that we may be flopping because we think too much.

We need our working memory located in the pre-frontal cortex of our brain to make complex decisions and calculations when in pressure situations. When we overthink, thereby overloading our working memory, it results in  “performance failure a malfunction of the pre-frontal cortex,” explains Sian Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, speaking in an interview on TVO’s The Agenda.

It turns out that overthinking situations that should come instinctively (thanks to hours of practice or rehearsal) is a recipe for overloading the brain and setting yourself up for failure, what Beilock terms “paralysis by analysis”.

The answer doesn’t lie in telling yourself not to think about something. That’s likely to make you think about it more. Instead try these three steps to make sure you never choke again.

Write fear away

Simply jotting down your fears before the big event may help you perform better, according to research published in the Journal Science. The study showed that students who wrote down their fears before a test performed better than those who didn’t.

Try out Mindfulness

It’s not just an eastern new age voodoo fad. According to research, practicing mindfulness works to relieve stress. In the study a group of nurses were asked to practice mindfulness exercises for 90 minutes a week. Results showed a significant decrease in stress and anxiety compared to those nurses who were not part of the mindfulness intervention.
New to Mindfulness? Take four minutes to try this deceptively addictive mindfulness video before your next big presentation.

Make Practice Resemble Game Time

The more your practice time resembles the actual event, the less likely you are to freak out when the big moment arrives, according to Beilock’s book Choke.

When Rassie Erasmus coached the Cheetahs in 2005, he had his team practice while Steve Hofmeyer’s Blue Bull song blared in the background to better stimulate the hostel environment of Loftus. The Cheetahs went on to win the final for the first time in 29 years.