I teach medical students and they are under a lot of pressure to achieve and perform. From admission interviews to board exams, the stakes are high. During the process they need to stay focused and handle the pressure. Actually, all of us need this skill because there are times in our lives when the pressure is intense and the outcome is critical.

If you’ve ever talked to a Navy Seal (I lived in Norfolk, VA., so yes, I have!), you will learn a lot about how they are taught to handle pressure in the most chaotic circumstances. There is much we can learn from their training.

  1. Goal setting. When you are tackling a particularly difficult task, one way to help you get through it is to set small goals. For example, let’s say you have to plan an event for 1000 people. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the details – book the venue, deal with all the contractors, etc. In order to not get overwhelmed, you focus on micro goals–one at a time, getting you from A to B, then B to C. Eventually, you will accomplish a difficult task.
  2. Visualize your results. You are faced with a difficult task. Now visualize step-by-step how you will complete it. Go over this visualization multiple times in your head so that when the moment comes, you are ready. Fight your fear. See yourself completing the task. Ask God to help you make it through. Practice over and over until you feel confident in how you do it. Make it familiar so your brain can just kick into gear when the time comes to do it.
  3. Make your self-talk positive. Did you know you speak 300 to 1000 words a minute in your head? What are you saying? Are they words of panic, fear, anxiety or are you telling yourself you can do it. You have practiced, prayed and are now ready. Make the tone one of relaxation and confidence.
  4. Stay calm. One of the most difficult things to do, but can be trained, is to stay calm. This often involves your breathing. When you take a deep breath, you relax your body. Inhale and exhale slowly and breathe deeply before you begin. Practice calming yourself in the middle of stress and eventually your body will learn to stay calm on cue.

These are four simple tips that can make a big difference in how you handle pressure. In addition, stay focused on what needs to be accomplished. Don’t get caught up in drama of those around you. This often requires setting boundaries and making sure you are working on priorities.

How to handle pressure

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