What the Super Bowl, Beanpot and other sporting events teach us about coping with pressure

Key Takeaways

  • The fight-or-flight response is built into human evolution, flooding the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones that can result in rapid heart and breathing rates, trembling hands and dilated pupils — all involuntary physical responses to perceived dangers.

Some 65,000 fans attended the Super Bowl on Sunday in Las Vegas, where the least expensive ticket was going for $7,000. Well over 100 million people watched on TV or online. More than $20 billion was wagered on the game.

Taylor Swift even showed up.

Now imagine the anxiety felt by each player of the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers as they approached the biggest sporting event in the country.

How did they respond to the pressure, the anxiety, the expectations?

“We talk in my class about how the fight-or-flight response kicks in at moments when we’re not actually in danger,” says Laura Dudley, an associate clinical professor who directs the minor in mindfulness studies at Northeastern University.”

It’s the same whether you’re a pro athlete or college student, she says.

“Sometimes that response can kick in when we are about to give a presentation in class or we’re about to have a difficult conversation with another person,” Dudley says. “So we all know what that feels like. My palms are sweaty and my heart’s racing — why are all these things happening? There’s no bear standing in front of me. I’m not being chased by some scary animal.”

Continue reading at Northeastern Global News.