Working Under Stress
Psychological Solutions to Pressure, Part IV
There are also psychological ways to address your stress. Use every tool available for you. The physiological tools are helpful but are even more potent when coupled with psychological tools. Attack your natural response to pressure from every angle.
1. Pressure doesn’t require that you behave a certain way. A particular thought, belief, or emotion doesn’t have to lead to a particular action. You have the option to resist your instincts and be more deliberate in your decisions.
1. Just because you’re feeling frantic or feel that you must decide quickly doesn’t mean that you must choose a course of action impulsively. You can consciously choose to take your time and consider your options.
2. Look ahead, far ahead. When you’re 80, will you care about that huge report your boss wanted on your desk by Monday? Will the stress of paying your bills 30 years earlier matter?
• Think about the things you were stressed about 20 years ago. What do you think about them now? You’ll feel the same way 20 years from now.
3. Consider that you may have more than one good choice. There’s a tendency to believe that you only have one good option, especially when stressed. Just because you have multiple options doesn’t mean that one of them is bad.
4. Focus on what you want. Under pressure, we tend to make decisions to avoid negative outcomes, rather than chase positive outcomes. Decide what you want, then make a decision that supports that. Anxiety amplifies the negative. Turn your attention back to the positive.
5. View pressure as an opportunity to have fun or to challenge yourself. You can choose to embrace these moments, rather than dread them.
• When these situations are viewed as do-or-die, your self-confidence falters, and your fear of failure grows.
• We respond positively to a non-threatening challenge. The physiological response to a healthy challenge strengthens your ability to perform. Your body is more capable, and you think more clearly.
• We wilt under pressure and thrive on challenges, so turn everything into a personal challenge. Challenge yourself to see if you can find the best solution while remaining happy and relaxed.
6. Lower the stakes. Standing over a putt to win the Masters, the golfer would be wise to tell himself, “It’s just another putt.” The more relevant you make the event in your mind, the more pressure you’ll feel.
• Tell yourself that it doesn’t matter. It might seem far-fetched, but it’s no more ridiculous than convincing yourself that the situation is more serious than it is.
7. Put your focus on the task, not the results. That’s another way of saying to keep your attention on solutions and executing those solutions rather than on the challenge.
• By focusing on the task, your brain will be cued to do the right things. If you need to complete a report, you’ll know that you need to find the financials from the last quarter. You might never look at the financials if you’re too busy worrying about what will happen if you don’t get it done.
• For longer tasks, keep reminding yourself of your mission. Remind yourself each day.
• You’ll learn that focusing on each step of the solution is the best way to increase the odds of success.
8. Remember times you were at your best. Remembering your past successes increases your confidence and reduces doubt. Think back to your greatest hits, especially if you have positive memories from your past of similar situations to your current challenge. If you were successful once, you could be successful again.
9. Rely on your senses to keep you grounded. Your mind runs wild when you’re stressed. Your thoughts are everywhere but on the present moment. A quick way to bring your mind back to the present is to focus on your senses.
• What do you see right now? Describe five things that you can see. Describe them in detail. Talk aloud if you can.
• What do you hear right now? Close your eyes and describe what you hear.
• What do you feel? Are you cold? Do you feel pressure in your back? Do you feel the ground beneath your feet?
• Ask yourself these questions several times each day and whenever your focus is wandering.
10. Practice. We’re under varying amounts of pressure each day. Practice with situations that involve lower stress. If you can handle situations that are mildly stressful more effectively, you’ll become better at handling higher stress situations. Some lower stress situations might include:
• Being stuck in traffic
• Sitting through a horrible meeting
• Having a conversation with someone you don’t like
• Giving a small presentation
• Hosting a party
• Use your tools in lower stress situations, even if you don’t need them. If you don’t use them during lower-stress times, they won’t be available when you need them the most. The practice is important.
There are many mental tools available to either lower the pressure you feel or increase your ability to focus and make good decisions despite it. Again, practice is essential.
Begin using these tools in your daily life. Your ability to focus, enjoy life and make wise decisions will flourish. Use your mind to your advantage.
“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.“
- Kris Carr