Thursday, May 24, 2007

Worry Reduces Brain Function

"The women start worrying about screwing up which uses up important short term or working memory which could otherwise be used performing the task," said Sian Beilock, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Chicago and lead investigator in the study. "

Typically you have about 5+/-2 active memory slots in your mind, this is your short-term memory and is filled with things like what you are doing now, what you plan on doing next, how you family is doing. Worry will take up one or more of those precious slots.

If you start worrying about how well you're doing something then you will do a worse at it. It doesn't really matter if it is math or sports or writing.

People are deathly afraid of speaking in public, and they do badly because they are afraid of making mistakes.

When you're writing how often do you do editing at the same time, all the time. When really you need to do writing and then come back separately for editing.

How to overcome the worry handicap
Once you are aware that worry can impair your mental function you can do things to overcome it. One of the best things you can do is be "in the moment", which sounds rather new-agey and zen, but is the right idea. Basically, all you're trying to do is put all your worries and concerns off on the side for a while.

A couple of brain hack techniques I have used are:
1) Write your mind clutter down. Get out a piece of paper or a word processing document and just brain dump everything cluttering your mind onto it.

2) Use a worry box. This is a little woo-woo but works for me. Actually when I first heard of a worry box it wasn't about a physical box at all, it was about how as this one person aged the less she worried about things and described it as her worry box getting smaller. I simply take a physical object and let that represent all the worries, concerns and directives I am currently worrying about and I put it to one side. For example, I need to focus on writing a blog post, but a lot of things in my mind are producing lots of mental static, I let my watch represent all the worries I have, and put it in my pocket. This clears my mind and lets me work more effectively. When I am done I put my watch back on and things are back to the way they were, more or less. Usually less since I got at least one thing off of my To Do list.

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