How to Handle Pressure

Seven tips to help you navigate pressure-filled seasons

Victor Saad

Founder

Pressure isn’t bad. How we handle pressure can be bad.

Whether you’re growing a career, a business, or a family, you’re going to face pressure. It’s just part of life. But it can be one of the best parts of life. Pressure has led to some of mankind’s greatest performances — in sports, in theatre, in business, and just about everywhere else. Our challenge is to figure out how to channel pressure and use it for good.

Defining Pressure

One of Ei’s dear friends, Dane Jensen, is CEO of Performance Coaching, a training and development company with its roots in sport psychology. In this enlightening piece, he shares a formula called The Pressure Equation:

Pressure = Importance x Uncertainty x Volume

Essentially, we feel pressure when there are too many things that feel both extremely valuable and yet out of our control.

With that equation in mind, how can we handle pressure-filled seasons well?

Zoom Out

During high-pressure seasons, everything feels urgent. But everything doesn’t need to happen at once. Decide what can wait, and what is truly important. The less you focus on at once, the more you can handle. And remember that even if you never achieve your most audacious vision, you’ll probably be ok. Again, the more you zoom out, the easier it is to handle things.

Small, Consistent Steps

When things start to feel heavy, plan for one or two high-impact actions that keep you healthy. Committing to just one healthy/smart thing each day leads to endurance. These are things directly in your control that don’t require permission or many resources but can drastically impact your day.
Further Reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Automate Everything You Can

Decision fatigue is especially prevalent during high-pressure days. Take time to set up systems that automate your life or work. The number of possibilities for automation can seem daunting, so start with the most basic functions such as choosing a simple wardrobe for work, calendar-blocking your week for certain kinds of tasks and appointments, automating how/where your money goes each month, etc.
Further Reading: 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris

Take Breaks

Your mind can only focus strongly on a task for roughly 25 minutes. Take short breaks to pause, do something active, playful, healthy, and then return.
Further Reading: Pomodoro Method

Rest Days

Similar to the previous one, but longer. Block (at least) one period of time to unplug entirely each week. Friday nights/Saturdays are great for this. Even if you’re not religious, there’s a lot of beautiful writing about the concept of Sabbath that translates into any type of life or work.
Further Reading: The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Remember the Why

Your seasons of pressure ought to have a clear purpose. What are you hoping to grow or nurture? Why is that so important to you? Focus on where you’re hoping to be in the coming weeks/months/years — and let that destination drive the work you do today.
Further Reading: Works by Laurel Mellin on Emotional Brain Training

Ask for Help

If you’re feeling like the pressure is becoming too much, ask for help. The sooner the better. The mental and physical toll of feeling overwhelmed can lead to a state of panic that is no longer helpful. So, really, make the call, send the email, knock on the door. You’ll be glad you did.
Helpful resource: Your closest friend/colleague

What else would you add to this list for seasons full of pressure?

posted by

Victor Saad

Founder

I’m an author, educator, and community builder living in Chicago. I started Experience Institute, an organization helping college students and career professionals learn and grow through short-term, real-world experiences.

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