Pulling off a great performance under pressure is one of the biggest highs out there—after all, they say a diamond is just coal that did well under pressure.

The opposite—choking—is usually a sports term. It’s missing the extra point after the touchdown, blowing your putt, or watching your free throw roll around the rim and then sadly drop off.

Entire teams can choke—for example, the 2004 Yankees. (“There’s no way the Red Sox will come back to win four in a row. That’s impossible.”) And, to be fair, there’s also the 1986 Red Sox (although the beleaguered Bill Buckner was welcomed home to a standing ovation when he threw out the first pitch at the 2008 home opener).

But choking doesn’t just happen to athletes. Choking happens to school kids with test anxiety, musicians auditioning in front of stone-faced judges, and actors trying out for a breakout role.

And it’s not just objectively pressure-filled situations, it’s anytime you psych yourself out.

For instance, a recent study found that people who are lonely tend to choke under self-imposed social pressure. When we feel desperate to connect, we end up spilling our drink or tripping over our feet, and not in an adorable Jennifer Lawrence kind of way.

Therefore, this week, we’ll talk about why we choke and 4 ways to give yourself a psychological Heimlich maneuver.


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