Remain effective under pressure

N°242b – Synopsis (8p.) – Stress
Remain effective under pressure
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Pressure is often regarded as stimulating—but beyond a certain threshold, it becomes debilitating. What strategies can you implement to keep all your faculties in high-stress situations?

We have all experienced how pressure—from impending deadlines or major events, for example— may help us mobilize our resources. We simultaneously feel slightly feverish, full of energy and highly productive. We feel motivated and ready to give our best. This enthusiasm and drive are often contagious, and lead us to infuse our team with the same positive, dynamic mindset.

But all of us have also experienced times when pressure overwhelms us. Our brain seems to work more slowly, or even freeze altogether. We can’t seem to recall things we know perfectly, and make uncharacteristic mistakes. And the more we feel we are not up to the mark, the more others reflect back their surprise at our underperformance—and, as a result, the more pressure rises and paralyzes us.

There are two reasons for these contradictory phenomena:

– On the one hand, we don’t all possess an equal ability to withstand pressure. Some people know how to use diversion strategies or maintain a high level of concentration despite their worries. Others lose their ability to function, or, as many professional musicians admit, need pharmacological assistance.

– On the other hand, depending on its intensity and duration, pressure can be stimulating or, conversely, lead to exhaustion and failure. This is because the biochemical reactions triggered by pressure are effective over short periods of time—they stimulate our organism and spur it into action. In contrast, over longer periods, this mobilization of our organism and the reflexes that result can deplete our energy and turn out to be counterproductive.

High-pressure situations are inevitable in business environments: presenting a high-stake project, managing a crisis, dealing with uncertainty and hitches, handling customer complaints, or being subjected to political games are all situations that may severely test our nerves. Rather than trying to diminish or avoid high-pressure situations, it is preferable to find ways to remain effective even when these situations persist over time.

In this synopsis:
- Pressure people to boost performance—a misguided “good idea”!
- Maintain your capacities in high-stakes situations
- Cultivate your optimism to stand up better to pressure

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