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When Pressure becomes your Ally

August 21,2018 By: Mansi poddar

Irrespective of who we are and what we do, each one of us faces pressure regularly – at home, at work, at school, and even on the roads while in transit. Let’s face it – pressure situations are unavoidable. Some thrive while others crumble under it.

Pressure is not a bad boy that needs to be ‘handled’, ‘dealt with’, or ‘side-stepped’ as most of us are led to believe. Instead, it can be quite a force that propels us forward in our life. After all, without adequate pressure even a tyre won’t budge. Pressure is a positive force that can be used to redefine our lives. It’s not pressure itself but how we respond to it that determines its effect on us.

Key Differences between Pressure and Stress

Quite often, we mistakenly use the words stress and pressure interchangeably to define the situation we face. They have different meanings, trigger different emotional responses and have significant performance implications that clearly help differentiate the two concepts and hence have to be dealt with differently. Here are some crucial points that help identify/differentiate stress and pressure:

  •  We experience pressure when we are challenged to meet demands wherein something significant is at stake if we under-deliver. We experience stress when the demands far outweigh our available resources – time, energy, and money to meet them, or our perceived lack of ability to respond to the demands.
  •  Last minute assignment! – “I’m under a lot of pressure.” Well, you aren’t, unless it’s a ‘do or die’ situation. Are you in danger of getting booted out of college if you don’t submit on time? If not, you are just stressed about it. “I might get fired IF I don’t meet my sales target this quarter.” – Oh boy! This is pressure! Pressure moments are simply those stressful moments that matter most.
  •  Stress involves a lot of issues that accumulate and lead to a sense of overload. Pressure involves feeling of fear, of having only one shot to get it right.

Physiological Impact of Pressure

When we succumb to crisis thinking and view all our pressure moments as crisis, our body is affected negatively. It restricts oxygen supply to the brain thereby adversely affecting our ability to think clearly and that doesn’t bode well for our success.

But, in a classic ‘crisis vs. challenge’ scenario, if we see pressure as a challenge instead of a crisis, or as an opportunity, more oxygen is pumped into our system – both our body and mind get energized thereby maximising our cognitive abilities.

Seven Sure-shot Ways to befriend Pressure

When you are faced with high-pressure situations that call for your utmost focus, efficiency and dedication, it is important to stay calm to think clearly and act diligently. Here are a few ways to make pressure your ally and make it work for you instead of against you:

  •  Learn to Prioritize

You know yourself, you know your work. Not everything needs to be done at once or by yourself. Prioritize, plan ahead, and delegate ahead of time. When push comes to shove, you should be fully equipped to reshuffle your priorities in the nick of time too. Do what you need to do before hand so you are in a position to do that under pressure.

  • Get Pressure and perspective to work together.

Ha! Tough ask, surely, but doable. It’s natural to lose perspective as pressure builds.  Focus on the bigger picture and don’t try to do better than your best.

  •  Live in the moment

You want to lead an awesome life? Well, it’s happening right now, right here. Pull back now and then, slow down, and focus on the present. Forget the future deadlines looming large over you like a dark cloud and learn to embrace the here and now. It stops being such a task when you enjoy what you do at that moment in time.

  •  Take a break and breathe

It’s always a good idea to breathe – not the shallow breath we take instinctively because we have to, but that which allows you to draw in air mindfully, consciously through your lungs to the pit of the stomach and then slowly exhale. Notice the pressure dissolve and become something that you thrive on.

  •  Practice for perfect, but aim for excellence

Perfection is an illusion, while excellence is attainable. Most of us are in pursuit of perfection and end up feeling pressured to be perfect at any cost. Practice instead to hone your skills and get better and better at what you do, which will stand you in good stead no matter the situation.

  •  Focus on what we CAN control

Most things in life are like the weather – uncontrollable. Accept that you don’t and won’t have a say in most matters and that’s alright. Find those that are within your power to change and work at it. Pressure mounts and takes an evil form when you wrongly presume you can influence things you cannot. Let go of those that you cannot and focus on those you can.

  •  Drop the ‘what if’ line of thinking

“What if I fumble and fall on stage?”

“What if my presentation clips freeze mid-way?”

“What if I fail in my exams?”

Notice something common in the above thought processes? Nothing bodes well after the words ‘what if’. They are steeped in negativity. Stop being so miserably doubtful of the future and quickly drop this line of thinking.

Pressure can become your pal and work to your advantage by simply working with it instead of against it. No need to push and prod at those moments as if it were a crisis, instead embrace it as an opportunity to grow.