by Kari Magg
I hope that many of you are able to take some quiet time right now. We all need to recharge and renew after the intensity of Holy Week. This may also be the perfect time to reflect a bit on how we handle the pressure of those “big” occasions. Do you relish the opportunity to display your talents, or are you filled with anxiety, dreading the extra scrutiny that comes with those big moments? Do you practice and prepare so meticulously and single-mindedly that everything goes off without a hitch but feels a little flat? Or are you so tense and worried about all the things that might go wrong that you feel like you are going to have a heart attack? Perhaps – I hate to say it – you are always disappointed with your performance on the big occasions, kicking yourself for not doing as well as you could have. Maybe you sometimes “choke”. Maybe you are just happy if you can get through without a major disaster. Whatever you feel, it deserves an honest look. If all is truly well and good, take time to congratulate yourself and enjoy your success before moving on to the next project. If all is not good, or less wonderful than you had hoped, you owe it to yourself to consider how you might make things better, easier or more comfortable the next time around.
I recently came across an interesting book which covers this subject in considerable depth. The stated mission of Performing under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry is to “provide an easy-to-use playbook of pressure solutions – accessible strategies that individuals can use immediately to depressurize a situation.” The first section of the book explores the science and psychology behind pressure, including discussions of what pressure does to our brains, the difference between stress and pressure, common pressure traps and ways in which we inadvertently put pressure on ourselves (or others). The second section, the practical meat of the book, provides over twenty pressure solutions that can be applied instantly. Not every solution will be useful for every person or every situation, but there is a wealth of wisdom here, and probably something for everyone. There is nothing revolutionary, and many of the solutions might seem like simple common sense, but they are still strategies we would do well to explore in our high-pressure moments. Some solutions (I found these among the more interesting) involve a slight but significant shift in our thinking. For instance, the first solution, to “befriend the moment”, involves seeing the pressure moment as a fun challenge or an opportunity rather than as a threatening do-or-die situation. The final segment of the book deals with long-term strategies to strengthen the attributes of confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm, which the authors consider essential to success.
It’s food for thought. I’d be happy to lend the book if anyone is interested.