How To Deal With Pressure

Pressure’s a big topic, and it exists in many forms. Some of which are difficult to mentally negotiate. Others affect you more if you allow them to.

The good news is pressure’s nothing new.

And while it does often relent with time, it can stick around longer than you’d like.

I’m not an expert. But I’ve been a Recruiter under pressure before. And this is the advice I wish I’d been given.

Identify your pressure points

This should be easy. You should know what they are because they run through your mind right before you fall asleep and first thing when you wake up. And all the time in between.

Whatever they are, write them down.

And don’t just gloss over that bit of the article and move on. The reason writing things down works is because the act itself manifests the intangible. It makes it ‘a thing’. And things are easier to deal with.

Tell yourself it’s temporary

Because it is.

If pressure was a person it would be a bastard. And its favourite activity is repeating itself. But even pressure knocks off for the day at some point.

And that means you get to as well.

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Remind yourself how good you are

Take stock of your surroundings. The environment you’re in. The equipment you have at your disposal. The placements you’ve made. The peers and superiors who have faith in you. The hours spent in the boardroom lapping up L&D materials you already know.

Because that’s the key.

You already know how to smash it. Because you’ve done it a million times before.

Remind yourself of that.

Exploit your peak hours

Use what autonomy you have over your schedule to deal with your highest pressure tasks when you’re at your most effective.

That might not be first thing in the morning. Which I know runs antithetical to the recruitment practice of ‘do the most important stuff first’ but it’s not always right for everyone.

People are more effective at different times of the day. Find your own power hour and try to vary what you’re doing.

Pressure gets harder to overturn the longer it’s run is extended. So plowing away at the same thing ends up being counterproductive.

eisenhower method template

Task prioritisation

You need a simple way of knowing what tasks to hit when the pressure does. And it makes sense to combat being overwhelmed by breaking big tasks down into smaller, actionable ones.

The ‘Eisenhower Method for Taking Action’ is a simple way of prioritising urgent and important tasks. It’s relatively self explanatory and the above template I found on author James Clear’s website is handy to refer to.

Take a break

Procrastination’s a natural response to being under pressure for too long. Paradoxically, it could also be a contributing factor to feeling the pinch in the first place.

So if you catch yourself aimlessly scrolling LinkedIn, or taking too long tidying up your inbox, or reading articles on Buzzfeed when you should be cracking on, take a breather.

Everyone knows it’s good practice to do so.

Going for a walk is free and allows you to get some perspective on any rut you may be in.

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Do your future self a favour

If dealing with pressure’s a regular thing, preparing as much as you can in advance is going to be a lifesaver. Write down your pressure points. Note what you’ve done that’s worked and what hasn’t.

Document as much as you can. Strategise how you’d mitigate against succumbing to pressure in the future. See if you can replicate your successes in prep or incorporate it into your workflow.

Be more mindful

I thought practicing gratitude meant whispering thank you into the void the next time you drop a latte on your lap or your phone in the loo.

Turns out I was wrong.

Thinking actively about good things in life might seem like a stretch but it can help to shift your perspective on pressure.

You’ll have noticed we’re advocates of the Headspace app at Hunted. Because 5 minutes meditation works like a tranquiliser. Literally.

And if you aren’t the meditating type, do some exercise. Chucking weights around or clocking up time on a treadmill is basically the same thing anyway.

Breathing, counting in your head, and getting in touch with your body. It’s all good for your state of mind.

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I know the tendency is to lay still, glaring at the ceiling in a fit of anxious rage, hypothesising the myriad ways tomorrow’s going to suck.

I actually can’t think of a hobby I spend more time on.

It just doesn’t make a great deal of sense practically, and it’s likely to set you back even more.

Try this instead: read How to Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep for a military technique that’ll have you nodding off inside two minutes.

Ask for help.

Wacky, I know. But your team and manager should want you to do well. And they’re an on-hand resource that isn’t leveraged enough in my opinion.

It might seem daunting, broaching the subject at first. But you’ll find most people admire the minerals it takes to admit when you’re not having the best time of it. And if you come away with a plan to turn things around, it’s worth it.

It works the other way too: if you see a colleague struggling and you’re in the luxurious position of tinkering with spreadsheets or tinkering with email templates, ask if you can do something to help.

Both of you will feel leagues better afterwards.

And finally…

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Be OK with failing

Don’t aim for it obviously, but try not to base your entire worth as a human being around avoiding failure.

Failure’s great. Everyone’s doing it.

Last year, I described failure as “the least immediately beneficial outcome from trying to be successful”. Because failure’s a brilliant teacher, you just have to be comfortable with it.

Indeed, accepting failure’s often the first step towards changing your thinking about pressure.

Mental Health Charity Mind has some good resources available if the pressure’s getting to you at work. And the NHS has these tips on how to combat it.

Ultimately, your goal shouldn’t be to avoid pressure altogether. But to alter your relationship with it. Because just as pressure’s nothing new, it’s not going away either. 

You have to find ways of dealing with pressure that work for you. So that when it does rear it’s big ugly head, you’re ready to thrive – not just survive.

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