Handle Pressure Like a Star Athlete

PRESSURE to perform can get the best of us – especially when we are swamped with other commitments and deadlines during the holiday season.  At one of our Key Women’s Leadership Forums, one of the participants ruminated about how she worked over the Thanksgiving holiday to get a high stakes project done. Not only did she feel the stress of the deadline, but the disappointment of her family. Emotions can stoke the pressure and make it even harder to handle.

One strategy to handle pressure is to shift how you are thinking and feeling. An effective technique is to recall yourself at your best. Think back to a specific time when you were successful in handling a deadline with competing demands. What was your attitude? How did you manage your emotions? What did you do to clarify expectations of yourself and with others?

How you “frame” the situation also has a lot to do with your emotional outcome. My colleague Dr. Taryn Morgan at IMG coaches athletes to make friends with the moment and see it as a challenge. Instead of labeling the moment as “do or die,” see it as something you’ve done in a similar situation in the past and can do again. Research bears out that thoughts and feelings associated with past experiences stay with you. Accessing positive feelings about what you’ve been able to accomplish in the past actually changes the chemistry of your brain. Your confidence improves and you become more productive.

I’m not advocating that you take on unreasonable demands and sacrifice too much of your personal life. I am recommending that when you have an unavoidable challenge and feel negative pressure or resentment building, change the way you think about it and the situation will improve.