For some people, pressure pushes them to succeed, helping them to thrive in potentially stressful situations (for example, delivering a presentation at work). For others, this pressure sets off a chain reaction of panic and anxiety, leading to nervousness and embarrassment. In some cases this leads to ‘choking’, or messing up, which can feel heartbreaking at the time.
Most of the time, it is the fear of choking itself that leads to the stress and panic that ultimately leads to the mistake – but how do you overcome this fear and perform well under pressure?
Whatever the situation is, practicing how you will approach it is key. This applies to a variety of high-pressured situations including work presentations, public speaking, talking to strangers – even cooking a large meal for a dinner party. By getting to know the material like the back of your hand, you will feel calmer and more prepared.
2. Have a back-up plan
While you shouldn’t waste too much time on the ‘what-if’s’, it is worth considering what could go wrong and devise a back-up plan should this happen. For example, if the flash drive with your presentation for work isn’t functioning – how will you get to it? In this case your back up plan may involve emailing yourself a copy or having a print version to hand.
3. Don’t fight stress
We tend to spend so much time trying to avoid stress that sometimes we fail to recognise the benefits of it. A study in America showed that those who viewed their stress in a positive light received all the physical benefits (i.e. high energy, motivation) without experiencing the negative effects. So while you shouldn’t let stress build up, in some cases a change of view can help ease its effects.
4. Lighten up
Sometimes, no matter how much we plan and prepare – things still go wrong. When this happens it is important not to take yourself too seriously, instead try to laugh it off. Whoever your audience is – they’re just people and they know that you’re human and make mistakes.
5. Think positively
If you convince yourself that you’ll mess up, chances are you will. Get a hold of your self-talk and remind yourself on a daily basis that you are capable, calm and confident and the performance will follow.