How to Avoid Caving Under Pressure
By Sandy Schroeder
Keeping it all together when the pressure is on can be a huge challenge. This may be a presentation you have been waiting for, or the speech you have dreaded. Whatever the pressure is the feeling is unmistakable. You have done the homework and now you have to pull everything off.
Sometimes it works, sometimes you wish you had done more as you barely make it through. And sometimes it happens, and you choke. It’s like missing that final putt on the green or that last shot under the basket. There’s no going back. We have all been there, and life goes on, but it does not feel like it at the time.
This happens in all sorts of situations when we want something to work but manage to trip instead. Learning how to come through is simpler than it looks, according to Scientific American's Savvy Psychologist, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen.
Hendriksen tells us why we fumble under pressure and what to do about it.
We let tension tie us up – When you get so keyed up over the possibility of failing, your brain may lose its usual sharpness and stumble. We have all been there, knowing the material perfectly, but getting too nervous as we get tangled up when it’s time to score.
We makes things too complicated – Some things may work perfectly and become automatic, until we get overly tense or excited and interfere with the process. You may do everything perfectly in practice and have it nailed, but lose it as we tense up in the excitement of the moment.
How to Counter
Hendriksen assures us we can pull it off when the pressure is on if we ease up a little.
If you are new, take your time – If you are tackling something new, go slowly and take all the time you need to do it right. I have done this with speeches, slowing down a little and thinking about the material more than the audience. Then the urge to convince them takes over and the words flow with the focus on making the point.
If you are a pro, move on ahead – Don’t overthink it, just do what you always do and use your best techniques. If you have made lots of other presentations, treat this one the same way you always do. No need to choke, just give it your usual push. When you watch someone speak you may be able to tell if this is their first speech, or one of many they have made.
Keeping your cool and coming through under pressure can be tough, but the more you do it the more skilled you will become. Don’t give up.
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