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I am currently undertaking a Diploma in the Neuroscience of Leadership and personally I am blown away by how interesting the content is and how easily applicable it is to so many situations and circumstances across both my professional and personal life. Frankly, the course is taking me to a whole new level of thinking and analysis.
One of the modules touches on stress and the long-term effects of prolonged periods of stress. Did you know that stress slows down the brain’s ability to connect brain cells which allow memories to form and that stress impacts on the brain’s ability to also access memories? Furthermore, prolonged periods of stress can actually rewire the brain to cause the amygdala (the emotion centre of the brain) to enlarge and the hippocampus (the part of the brain that helps us recall detailed facts and code them as memory formation) to shrink.
Four tools were presented as self-regulation strategies to use to cope with stress and fear, and I think these strategies can be easily adapted to apply in a stressful job interview situation. The strategies include chunking, mental rehearsal, self-talk and arousal control.
Chunking is the process of breaking your focus into smaller and more achievable parts which will help to focus on each question in isolation. In other words, don’t focus on the entire interview as an enormous and scary task, but rather, tackle each question individually and when the interviewer is satisfied with the answer, then mentally shift focus to the next question.
Mental rehearsal involves continually running through an activity in your mind so that when you are in the situation it comes more naturally. You should visualise yourself in the interview room, going over answers to questions in your mind and practice interview question scenarios.
Interestingly, we speak to ourselves at over 300 words per minute so we need to ensure that our internal dialogue is positive rather than negative. Positive self-talk will assist to override the fear signals in our brain being transferred from our amygdala and therefore work to lower the amount of stress related adrenaline and cortisol being released through our body. Self-talk is an important strategy to ensure you remain in a positive frame of mind – think ‘glass half full’ approach.
Arousal control centres on our breathing, with deliberately slow breathing working to mimic our body’s relaxation techniques, sending increased levels of oxygen to our brain and slowing down the stress hormones travelling through our body. Concentrating on breathing will help focus and remain calm. If you feel yourself getting flustered then stop, pause and breathe so you’re able to calm yourself and regain focus and composure.
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