How do you handle pressure?

There are many meanings to the word pressure, but I want to discuss how one handles the burden of physical and/or mental distress.  Life has a way of putting us in pressure packed situations, and your ability to handle it can determine how well you will succeed. 

Think about the following scenarios:

-       You are in a meeting at work and your boss, out of the blue, asks you to present details of a project for which you are not very familiar

-       You are in your house sleeping when you are awakened to noises coming from the downstairs which sound like broken glass

-       You are in karate class and your instructor asks you to come to the front of the group and present your kata, with which you are currently struggling

All of these can be pressure situations, and how you react can make or break the results and outcome of the event.

So, ask yourself, are you like an egg, a carrot, or a coffee bean? 

Let’s examine each of these and see how it applies.  Take each of these items and think about what happens when they are placed in very hot water (pressure).  The egg when placed in hot water gets rigid and turns hard.  Now, some might like it that way, but if you turn rigid and stiff in the above scenarios, you will most likely not have a good outcome.  Whether you are giving a presentation, dealing with an intruder or wanting to impress in front of a class, you need to be relaxed and calm in order to be successful. 

The carrot when placed in hot water has an opposite reaction.  It softens and shrivels and comes apart.  This reaction will also produce poor results.  You certainly do not want to come apart in situations which might determine your future, such as how you are thought of at work, or even how you will defend your home.  Similarly, presenting your karate is extremely difficult if you are disheveled.

BUT, let’s examine the coffee bean.  Coffee beans, when placed in hot water, can produce one of the most delicious concoctions known to man.  They thrive in pressure and come out even better than they were without it.  That is exactly how you want to be!  You want to accept the challenge at work and present the best you can.  You want to be calm when you hear the noise at night and think logically and clearly.  You want to stay focused when you present your kata in front of a group, and let your training take over. 

So, how do you become the coffee bean and avoid being the egg or carrot? 

• Think of pressure as a challenge and not a threat.  It will allow you to give the attention and energy needed to give a good effort and not a fearful, energy- draining response.

• Remind yourself that the situation you are in is probably just one of many opportunities you have to respond to pressure and in most cases, is not the only opportunity you will have.  It will reduce the anxiety and associated nervousness with that particular situation.

• Focus on the task at hand, not the outcome.  If you can have tunnel vision, and keep your focus on exactly the task at hand and the steps needed to accomplish them, it will allow you to free yourself of the overall feeling of dread or negativity. 

• Take control of the factors you have control over and don’t worry about the others.  Every situation has many different aspects, and we rarely have control over all of them.  Focus on the ones you do have control over.

• Think of past successes and let that ignite confidence.  If you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to produce positively.

• Slow down.  High pressure situations tend to speed up your thinking and can cause errors in performance.  Breathe.  Take a moment to formulate a plan.  Move with determination and not in desperation.

Not everyone is born a natural coffee bean.  Those who are not can learn and practice the above techniques to help themselves perform better when they are placed in a pressure packed situation.  Don’t fear pressure situations, but instead look upon them as an opportunity to succeed.  Show yourself that you can deal with it positively and you will be on your way to being my favorite bean in the world.

-Coach David-