Do you remember those hot summer days as a kid when you would get a Slurpee and after a few slurps you would get this incredible searing pain in the middle of your forehead? Remember how it would render you useless for about 20 seconds and you screamed and danced in place rubbing your forehead? The physical cold temperature caused that excruciating pain as the Slurpee hit the roof of your mouth. You managed to survive the ordeal but how effective were you during that 20second period? Not a whole lot got accomplished did it?
There is another type of brain freeze, which is caused by a chemical reaction your brain performs when you are under anxiety or stress. It is a survival mode that is very primitive and basic but very effective in today’s chaotic world. Have you ever been so angry you couldn’t think straight? During those types of situations you can say or do things you wind up regretting later. This is the fight, flight or freeze, syndrome I refer to as a chemical brain freeze. This happens because one part of your brain literally shuts down the thinking part of your brain. If you don’t do anything about it you can lose your thinking brain for up to 20 minutes. That’s why after a heated conversation with a customer, employee or spouse its not until 15-20 minutes later we think of all the good things we needed or wanted to say, but the moment is gone.
Other classic examples would be if you got a voice mail message from the IRS? Or say your spouse called asking why you didn’t pick up your child at the day care center? Or when you reach for your wallet and it isn’t in its normal place?
During the holidays I was standing in line at one of those private mail stores in a strip mall. The line was about 30 people waiting to mail packages and cards. There were two ladies behind the counter working frantically. Suddenly one of the ladies says “Oh no, the computer went down.”
One of the two computers had crashed on them. Instead of addressing those waiting in line, both ladies kept theirs heads down and didn’t look up at anyone. People in line got anxious and tempers got short. As I got up closer to the front of the line I hear one of the clerks tell a customer, “This computer crashes all the time.”
Obviously they weren’t prepared for an event that happened frequently and it appeared both clerks encountered a chemical brain freeze. What could have happened if they stayed in the game? They could have addressed the people in line that they had a computer problem and they were rebooting. It was going to take a couple of minutes. Who would like to share a favorite Christmas story? Or who is traveling the farthest for the holidays? They could have even done a quick raffle of one of their office items to keep the customers engaged. When you stay in the game you utilize all your mental resources available and get creative. When you’re not prepared you have a chemical brain freeze and you just wind up getting your customers upset or losing them altogether. It’s important to note that Chemical Brain Freezes can occur on both sides of the counter.