Relief pitchers know it. So do politicians about to debate. How about demolition experts? Although the task at hand may be difficult, it is imperative to remain “cool” under pressure. For doing so leads to performing at peak effectiveness.
As for the rest of us, from time to time we all experience that proverbial “lump-in-our-throats” when faced with a formidable task. Whether it be performing an ice skating routine before a panel of judges or contemplat-
ing having to confront a spouse about a troublesome issue, the risk of “freezing up” exists and must be reconciled.
Actually, the likelihood of choking is greatest when we are under real or imagined pressure to perform flawlessly. When we set the “bar” that high, negative thoughts—even a sudden noise or other distraction—can break our concentration and cause us to perform ineffectively. Yet, some people bounce back from noise factors, regain their composure and perform with poise and grace to achieve the desired outcome.
When the lump grows in your throat, how can you avoid choking?

  • Great expectations can fall short. Don’t expect everything to go according to an ideal plan. If you factor in the possibility of distractions, you will better be prepared to counter them.
  • Turn off and tune in. Stop that “little voice” inside from running the negative self-talk. Pay attention to sounds on the outside pertaining to the task at hand. You can’t both be “inside” and “outside” of an experience simultaneously. By staying out of the negative self-talk, you are focused elsewhere in a more positive direction!
  • Use cues as clues. It is often said that people choke when they lose their train of thought. Therefore, it is important to anticipate that possibility and have a method—just in case—for getting back on track. Prepare “cues” that are appropriate for a given context. For example, a golfer about to putt on national t.v. for a “birdie” may visualizes the hole as being large enough to hold a basketball.
  • Experience the ending at the beginning. Imagine having the outcome you desire before engaging the task. See judges holding up cards with high marks while others are applauding your performance. Or imagine the sides retiring, going back into the dugout and receiving a bunch of “high fives” from your teammates!

Let staying “cool” be your safety valve to remove pressure and keep from choking…
…And now, the time has come to say goodbye. After seven and one-half years and 296 articles, this column is being retired. It was certainly a long but enjoyable time. It was my great privilege to have been able to share insights with my readers in a variety of interesting ways. Over the past years, the articles covered a host of interesting topics that may conveniently be grouped by type: (a) Serious psychological limitations such as, stress and weight management, depression, love, guilt, alcohol and co-dependence, sexual problems, grieving death, pet loss, panic disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD), parenting skills, communication in general, with children and with adult relatives; chronic fatigue syndrome (CFIDS) and seasonal affective disorder, to name a few. (b) Psychophysiological disorders such as, high blood pressure, Raynaud’s Disease, migraine headaches, and stress in relation to heart disease and cancer. (c) Strategies for improvement including, biofeedback, neurofeedback, and behavior modification applied to a variety of situations. (d) Holiday features in which holiday-related stressors and their impact were examined and suggestions made for improvement. (e) “Cameo” topics in which salient points were made through articles written from the lighter side. For example, “The truth about consequences,” “How to make love stay”, “The art of failing as a pessimist”, “Taking a licking” (when postage was increased) and “How to cultivate stress at 35,000 feet!”
Whew! There were certainly a lot of different ideas presented. Yet their messages had some common themes;

  • When something you are doing is not working, stop immediately! Then do something else. Too often, people continually engage the same useless strategy hoping for a different outcome.
  • Upon facing a limitation in education, parenting, socializing, find a positive, resourceful behavior from any other situation that can be transferred to the one containing the limitation.
  • Develop choices in your behavior. Flexibility increases the likelihood of producing desired outcomes. Become proactive—take charge of  your responses rather than “surrendering” to circumstances. Remember, in life there are no mistakes—only outcomes! The more choices of behavior available to you, the better your chances of selecting one that will produce a useful outcome.

And so I wish each and every one of you health, happiness and remember…think positive for a change!