What does performing under pressure look like to you? Everyone faces pressure at some point in their lives, but it can be a difficult feeling to describe. The way that we deal with pressure has a lot to do with the ways we understand stress. People often use the two words interchangeably to describe the trouble they face in demanding circumstances. Except managing stress and staying calm under pressure are two different situations with slightly different solutions. Let’s explore the differences between the two:
Pressure occurs when we feel responsible to deliver on important expectations with an uncertain outcome. Stress is our mental and physical reaction to overwhelming pressure that feels like it is out of our control. No one “thrives” under pressure. The people who remain calm under pressure are those that best cope with stress. The objective is a headspace of persistence and patience to do the best job we can. Working in this state of calmness increases productivity and the quality of your work in the long-term. So how do we accomplish this? By using these six practices to remain calm under pressure:
- Recognizing triggers
- Keeping the right focus
- Power of positive thinking
- Practicing meditation
- Breaking down larger tasks
Recognizing how you respond to high-pressure tasks is the first step in managing its effects. Pressure causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol that control a fight or flight response and our ability to make decisions. How we respond to fight or flight responses can evolve over time based on how effectively we manage stress. Some of the most common stress responses include changes in sleep, appetite, heart rate, and behavior. Realizing these symptoms will help in identifying the differences between positive and negative stress. Then you want to reflect on the possible causes of these emotional and physical symptoms like particular stressful feelings. Now that you can identify how your body reacts to pressure and why you are able to take control of the situation and de-escalate those fight or flight responses!
Keeping the right focus
When your mind is pulled in several directions, pull focus back onto what matters most. And what matters most are the circumstances in your control. Instead of worrying about an uncertain outcome, focus on the effort you put into high-pressure activities. Some factors you are able to control include your work surroundings and carrying a positive attitude throughout the day. What you don’t want to focus on is other people’s behavior, negative self-talk, and distractions that only lead to procrastination. Sometimes in order to gain focus, it takes removing yourself from the entire situation. Taking a step back to ask yourself what is causing this amount of pressure provides clarity of the outcome you are wanting to achieve.
Power of positive thinking
It’s practically impossible to stay calm under pressure whenever you feel defeated by negative thoughts. Entertaining and replaying the worst case scenarios in our minds only builds anxiety and limits our expectations. It’s not enough to dismiss negative thoughts as they appear. Keep a positive mindset by actively replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Approach a high-pressure situation as a challenge that you were made to conquer rather than approaching it with fear. Remove any limiting vocabulary or negative self-talk from your way of thinking even as you prepare for a stressful event. Having high self-esteem is another aspect of positive thinking. Mantras like “I can do this” have a huge impact on your attitude when it comes to keeping calm under pressure.
Making healthy lifestyle choices that maintain physical and mental wellness affects our ability to cope with pressure. One of these habits to practice recentering yourself every day is meditation. Meditation doesn’t have to look like a technical, complicated routine. It can simply be going to a quiet place to clear your mind, focusing on your breathing, and repeating mantras to yourself. Envision your emotions and the task at hand all falling into place to soothe your worries about your pressures.
Meditation harnesses a skill called mindfulness, to be aware of ourselves in our present surroundings. Mindfulness is important for keeping calm under pressure because it reconnects us with our senses. Taking time to recognize what is going on around us can also lead to recognizing our thinking patterns in stressful situations. It redirects our attention to what matters when our mind is all over the place. Declutter your mind and become present in the moment by using easy mindfulness meditations.
Everyone’s first response to feeling overwhelmed should be to remind yourself to breathe. In the heat of the moment, our breathing patterns can change without us realizing. You can forget to breathe or take shorter and shorter breaths until you begin to panic. Instead, take deep breaths by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. One common breathing technique is the 4-7-8 method which is used to treat anxiety. Concentrating on your breathing can help process your surroundings and aid in gaining mindfulness in meditation. It’s also a helpful way to relax your nerves and slow down to center yourself before going back to work.
Breaking down larger tasks
The last practice of remaining calm under pressure has to do with how you structure and complete your work. Instead of being overwhelmed by a large project, break it down into smaller, manageable activities. At each step, you are able to pay attention to details you may skip over if you rushed through. Complete each step at a steady pace to ensure you are only putting out the best quality work.
Multitasking may seem like an option to complete tasks faster, but time and time again it is proven to be scientifically impossible. It only makes working under pressure more difficult with more distractions. When all else fails, the thing to do is ask for help from people around you before pressure gets the best of you. Letting other people how you feel releases stress and can help manage your sources of pressure.
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