I can’t do this, it is impossible!
What if I mess up? It will ruin me!
Why did I sign up for this?
Does any of that sound familiar?
Such utterances come from the gut when we are under pressure – the burden of physical or mental distress – the urgency of matters demanding attention! The constraint of circumstances.
Where Does Pressure Come From
It comes from the fear of failure when we have to “deliver,” or suffer the consequences. The higher the stakes, the stronger the pressure.
Pressure comes in all areas of life – academic, personal and professional.
- Going to an important job interview
- Leaving your full-time job to follow your dream
- Giving a presentation that can make or break your professional reputation
- Teaching an unruly group of high school students
- Going on the first date with someone you’ve had your eye on for ages
- Entering college – far from home
- Meeting with the company’s Board of Directors after a major mishap
- Qualifying for the regional high-jump championships
- Taking college entrance exams
- Meeting your future daughter-in-law
- Performing for the first time as lead singer of the band
The Terrible Feeling of Dread
Pressure produces a feeling of dread that can manifest in many ways – butterflies, nausea, holding your breath, a blank mind, stage fright, and “flop sweat.”
Regardless of how it presents, feelings of dread are not pleasant, and we humans do our best to avoid them.
When these feelings hit us, we will do anything to stop them – including running from the situation, which is not a good choice.
We Can’t Let Pressure Derail Us
Just as water can erode the largest rock, psychological pressure can erode mental and physical health if it is strong and continuous. The damage over time can be severe. So, it’s critical to manage it.
Recognize what is happening, mentally step back, and control the reaction.
Three basic techniques to control it are:
- Think of the situation as a challenge rather than a threat.
- Focus on the task, not the outcome
- Take slow deep breaths – controlled breathing
The third one is crucial. Stress can cause muscles to tighten and make breathing difficult, which deprives your brain of oxygen. So, breathe!
The Biggest Danger
Choking – performing badly when it counts.
Performers and athletes choke – anyone can.
At the moment we need to be operating at our absolute “best,” we do the opposite.
The after-effects of “a choke” can go beyond a performance disaster or blowing a critical presentation.
Choking messes with the mind. For some people, it is so bad they give up on their dreams. They tell themselves they don’t have what it takes – and quit trying. Don’t let this happen!
Start Paying Attention
Pressure situations are real. We can’t escape them, but we can learn to manage them.
What situations are pressure pots for you? How do you react? How do you manage the reactions?
If you don’t have effective techniques, develop some – and soon. For ideas, start with my posting: How to Keep Your Head from Exploding.
You no longer have to fear the thought, “deliver or suffer the consequences.” You can learn to deal with pressure and do everything you are meant to do.