From The Straits Times    |

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Successful people aren’t just hotwired to handle stress better, they’ve learnt how to reduce the negative effects of pressure. Here’s how you can, too.

1. Re-Label The Emotions

Most people consider high-pressure situations as threatening. But this just undermines self-confidence and creates a fear of failure. Instead, re-label being ‘under pressure’ to being ‘challenged’. By befriending the emotion, and viewing high-pressure moments as a challenge and opportunity for fun, the fear turns into anticipation.

2. Downplay The Importance

Just like the old advice of imagining your audience in their underwear to reduce anxiety, it helps to put things into perspective when facing a critical challenge. Remind yourself that this high-pressure situation – while a good opportunity – is just one of many opportunities, and most probably not the only one you will ever have. There will be other opportunities that come your way.


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3. Stay In The Present

Instead of worrying about the outcome, worry about the task at hand. By zeroing in on your mission, you reduce the pressure and distractions, and just focus on the things that need to be done. Tunnel vision helps you concentrate on your goal and take concrete steps to achieve it. The chance of doing your best is improved when you focus on the here and now.

4. Plan For The Worst

‘What-if’ scenarios can help you prepare for the worst-case outcomes. What if you’re giving a presentation and you lose your slides? What if the time for your talk is cut in half? Anticipating the unexpected can protect you from a surge of pressure. By planning in advance what you’ll do in the event of trouble, you’ll panic less and be more likely to maintain your composure.

5. Believe In Yourself

Flash back to previous successes and how you handled them – tell yourself you did it before, and you can do it again. Psychologists report that those who acknowledge their experience and skills before taking on tasks, make fewer errors than those who do not. Staying positive and believing in a successful outcome cuts the anxiety and fear and allows you to act with confidence.


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6. Slow down

When you’re under pressure, it’s natural to speed up your thinking. But moving too fast doesn’t let you think as clearly as you normally would. You might miss key information, jump to conclusions and act before you’re ready. So slow down, and give yourself time to breathe. You’ll be able to be more creative and attentive and your work will show this.

7. Squeeze A Ball

Stress balls are not just an office cliche – they actually work, and are backed by science. Your mind can sabotage your performance in high-pressure situations, with constant thoughts of self-doubt. But when you squeeze a ball with your left hand, you’re able to activate the parts of your brain that control unconscious responses, while simultaneously suppressing the parts of your brain that oversees self-conscious thinking.

8. Listen to music  

There’s a reason why athletes wear headphones before a competition. Listening to music helps distract them from anxiety, blocks out distractions and makes it easier to focus on what they need to do. Try it the next time you’re facing a high-pressure situation, and let music calm you down, whether it’s pumped up tunes or mellow Mozart.


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9. Get Into The Zone

The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ has its merit. The more you practice something, the more automatic it becomes. Knowing what you need to do so well that you can do it in your sleep, means you’re fully immersed and focused, which leads to superb performance.

10. Look After Yourself

Help your body perform well under pressure. That means proper diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation. For example, too many carbs in the morning will cause your blood sugar to slump later, while a high protein breakfast will keep you going for longer without a sugar crash.