Under stress the brain releases cortisol that raises your heart rate, it modulates adrenaline levels and it clouds your thinking. It’s often the reason we don’t sleep well, make poor decisions and fail to recall important information when we need it (ever given a presentation and forgotten your key points?)
The evolutionary reason for the shutting down of rational thinking along with your digestive system (appetite), libido (sexual appetite and performance) and immune system (making us more susceptible to illness) under high stress is logical; Your body doesn't want to be expending energy these things when none of them will help you. However, we can learn to manage stressful situations better.
Dr. Daniel Levitin is a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal and his research focuses on pattern processing in the brain. In his recent TED Talk he talks about the method of Prospective Hindsight - the practice of planning for stressful situations and moderating its impact on decision making. He uses some real world examples to provide context on this coping mechanism and it's useful reminder to plan and strategise for difficult personal and professional situations.
Ever used prospective hindsight? Share your examples and help others.