5 ways to…win under pressure

Maintaining success under stress

In business as well as sport, the higher your profile the greater the scrutiny. The Miami Heat seemed to buckle under the stress in this year’s NBA finals, while their rivals the San Antonio Spurs thrived on it to win the championship. Keep a calm head in the face of pressure and you’ll not only come out on top but turn the cynics into fans in the process.

1. Recognise the state you’re in.
Stress is useful to keep energy levels high; without it you’d slip into lethargy. But a prolonged manic state of high energy and tension leads to burnout. Aim for high energy and low tension; in this calmly energetic state you’ll be best placed to cope with the demands of the situation.

2. Draw on your strengths.
Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan identified feeling competent as an intrinsic need which promotes wellbeing and vitality. Remind yourself of the skills and character traits that helped you reach your position and reflect on how you’ve used these strengths to overcome challenges in the past. How could you reframe your current situation to use more of your strengths and silence the critics?

3. Regain control.
Autonomy – the feeling of being in control – is another core psychological need. Regain yours by focusing on what you can influence and getting on with it. You can’t affect your competitors’ marketing strategy but you can invest in your team’s expertise. Taking decisive action ends the dithering and provides a much needed distraction.

4. Get connected.
The prize is for winning, not for doing so alone. Feeling connected is the third of Deci and Ryan’s basic needs, and relationships are proven to buffer against negative effects of stress. Reach out to your network to share coping strategies, or seek out an ally for a pep talk.

5. Boost your physical vitality.
Pressure quickly takes a physical toll; don’t let it. Nourish yourself, exercise, take regular refreshing breaks, communicate with energy and passion – do whatever you can to look after yourself and show those around you that you’re thriving, not buckling.

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