For the brain to respond more efficiently during a crisis, thinking about it beforehand is important as preparation, claims a new study.
Art Markman, a cognitive psychologist who studies the brain's performance under stress, had his research put to the test last September when a masked man entered the University of Texas campus where he works and opened fire with an assault rifle.
Markman spent the next four hours locked in his office, stressing over what he might do if the gunman came to his corner of campus.
Like many people in his situation, he wondered if he would be shot at or taken hostage, if he could run, duck, or hide fast enough, if he could reason with the gunman, and if he could perform vital first aid if anyone were wounded.
"It's obviously a helpless feeling. Thinking about stressful situations can create stress, so we don't like to talk about them until we're faced with them," the Discovery News, quoted him as saying.
He said that imagining or simulating stressful scenarios could actually give mental confidence and agility to confront and survive them.
"The more averse you are to putting yourself into a stressful situation, the more that stress is going to affect your performance when you finally have to encounter it," explained Markman.
Likewise, Sian Beilock, of the University of Chicago, examined who is more likely to succeed under stress in her new book 'Choke: What Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.'
Drawing on studies for everything from math anxiety to sports, Beilock found that the brain keeps its cool with a combination of practice and positive reinforcement.
She stated that simulation of high-stress situations, meditation, and even positive self-affirmation serve as important brain nutrients.
"A lot of research suggests that if we mimic just a little bit the types of situations we encounter, that's enough to get us accustomed in a real do-or-die situation," she said.