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3 Basic Techniques to Perform Better Under Pressure

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Patrick Kozakiewicz

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I bet there are a lot of things that put you under pressure. It can be giving a presentation, a child’s performance at school, a big sale or a deadline for a loan application. Whatever it is, the pressure is real and it is felt by all of us. You can feel it in your clenched stomach, in your sweaty palms and even in your brain. For many of us, feeling pressure means that we don’t feel we are functioning at our best. So, what can you do to function better under stress? Well, I wanted to share three situations and three practices to go along with your learning.

A team under pressure

As a team, it is important to start with understanding what the pressure is, at its root. Pressure is caused by different things for different people. For one person in the team, it could be a deadline, for another, it could be public speaking. It is good to understand this about your team. Moreover, it is important to know how individuals in your team respond to pressure. Some people thrive in it, while others fear it very much and focus on all the things that could go wrong in the world. Watch the 6 min video from The Economist to learn more about what makes elite athletes thrive or dive under pressure.

 

 

Practice

Get your team together and talk about pressure. Figure out a medium where everyone can share. See if your team can come up with a solution to managing pressure. If they can’t, see if you could come up with a mantra, a slogan, a one-liner (however you want to call it) that the team can repeat mentally once they start panicking. For example, “Don't be afraid of pressure. Pressure is what transforms a lump of coal into a diamond.” or “Courage is grace under pressure”.

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Handling pressure in your family

While family life can be full of fun, it can also be full of pressure. Financial obstacles, lack of time together, health and relationship issues, the list goes on and on. Many families don't get any help when it comes to dealing with these pressures. Some believe this is just the way things should be. Others feel they don’t have the support, confidence or are embarrassed or scared of being judged. Yet, regardless of what your excuses are, there are plenty of resources out there to support you with handling family pressure. All it takes is making some time to go out and explore, to ask questions and discover what practices might work for you. For one, just like with your team above, talk about pressure and understand each other's pressure and then come up with a family solution that works for everyone. Or you can try the practice below.

Practice

It is a safe and comfortable way of handling pressure together. It is great to do with your partner and children who often say they feel calmer and more comfortable in this mindfulness practice than other breathing practices.

  1. Begin sitting up as tall as possible and back to back with a partner. Place your legs in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a few deep breaths on your own and feel the support of your partner behind you, doing the same thing. Feel free to keep the eyes open or close them. You can also place your hands on your stomach or heart.
  3. After a few rounds of breathing on your own see if you can start to feel your partner's breath.
  4. Maybe after a few rounds of noticing each other's breath, you may begin to sync up the rhythm of your breath and notice how this feels to be breathing together.
  5. You can stay here as long as you feel comfortable and connected.

Individual under pressure

Whether you are an Olympic athlete or a developer, a Navy Seal or an IT manager, performing under pressure is the same. Everyone has deadlines, goals, setbacks, and challenges. In other words, everyone experiences pressure. However, what differs between someone experiencing excitement vs. nervousness, or joy vs. fear from the pressure, is how we perceive it. The body has natural biological and chemical responses to external stimuli. That is something we, for the most part, can’t change. If there is danger, your body will respond with the right set of chemicals and hormones to prepare you for the challenge. This means that you will feel the effect of the pressure. Now, whether you perceive that as a bad thing or a good thing is your doing. Whether you decide to view the pumping of the heart and dryness of the mouth as great or awful depends on your mindset.

For more info, watch this 3 min video by Simon Sinek, a British-born American author, and motivational speaker, talking about Training Your Mind to Perform Under Pressure.

 

 

Practice

The practice I recommend is simple. Next time you notice pressure, reflect or write down how it makes you feel. Where can you sense the pressure? Where in your body do you feel it? What thoughts, what stories are you creating in your mind? And if you like, try and swift your perspective and again notice what you feel and how your reactions change.

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Topics: Mindful Leader