Ever wondered how some people seem to thrive under pressure, while the rest of us are struggling to keep our heads above water?
Those people, who I’m tempted to call “superhuman,” can handle stress like champs. What’s their secret? What makes them different from the rest of us panicky and anxious folks?
In this article, I’ll answer those questions. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to be as strong and steely-nerved as they are. Let’s dive in!
1) They embrace the chaos
I’ll start this off by saying I used to be a preschool teacher. And really, it’s not all song and dance!
It was a really stressful job – but only if you didn’t know how to lean into the chaos.
In my first year of teaching, I had this vision of keeping everything organized, my students all looking up at me with wide-eyed attention…
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. The reality turned out to be…
…a lot of spilled paint and spilled drinks, kids fighting, kids getting bumps and bruises, kids refusing to stay put in their seats…I could go on and on about the daily chaos in my classroom.
But once I learned how to embrace chaos, I found so much joy in it. I loved the little surprises that chaos can bring, and I learned how to think on my feet.
Because yes, if there’s anything chaos will teach you, it’s how to be quick-thinking and manage like a boss!
2) They can predict obstacles
Part of managing a chaotic situation is the ability to predict what’s going to happen.
Okay, maybe not literally, but there’s always that playing of possible scenarios in the back of their heads.
And the best part is, people who thrive under pressure always have a plan B (and even C and D) for these potential obstacles. It’s all about being proactive.
In my years of “chaotic” teaching, I developed the ability to see what could happen if I did this or that.
For example, if I was planning a science experiment, I could already imagine what would happen if little Jacob (the biggest, uhm, handful I had in class) got his hands into the bowl of baking soda.
I could then plan strategies to avoid that, like maybe positioning him away from the bowl or having my assistant sit beside him…you get the drift.
The point is, people who are used to pressure became that way because they’ve learned how to prepare for potential challenges.
This leads me to my next point…
3) They aren’t afraid of uncertainty
I know I’ve said that people who thrive under pressure can predict obstacles. But let’s be real – we can really only predict and plan as much as we can. Despite our best efforts, we still won’t know everything there is to know about a situation.
For most of us, uncertainty is something to be afraid of. After all, it’s not comforting when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Too many of us get paralyzed, especially when making decisions, because of that fear.
But for those who can handle pressure, uncertainty comes with the game. They’ve got no time to dwell on the fear of what might happen; they’ve got to come up with solutions!
So when someone asks them, “What do you think will happen here?”, they can shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, we’ll find out soon!” with awe-inspiring confidence.
4) They’re insanely flexible
As I mentioned above, no matter how well-prepared you are, things won’t always go your way. Life could take a look at those plans and say, “Hmm, let’s put a wrench in those, shall we?”
Sometimes it’s enough to make the perfectionist in us cry!
But as long as you’re flexible, you’ll be fine. That’s what people who thrive under pressure do.
When roadblocks appear, they simply let go of their plans and expectations and adapt to the situation. They’re always open to new ideas and approaches that would get them to their goals.
So, the next time you find yourself up against a challenge, take it as a sign to adapt and improvise!
5) They are masters of compartmentalization
Another way that people who thrive under pressure deal is by compartmentalizing. According to a study, it’s a useful tool for managing stress.
What does that mean?
It’s all about mentally dividing and organizing the different aspects of your life.
I had a colleague who was an expert at this. If you looked into her class at any given time, you’d see her singing or dancing or telling a story with such animation. You’d never imagine she was actually going through a painful divorce, with a child custody issue to boot.
See, that’s compartmentalization at work. She could box up her emotions and thoughts about her personal life and set them aside while at work.
If this isn’t your strong suit, try practicing mindfulness and staying present in the moment. Focus on what you can control and let go of the things that are outside your control.
Just be careful not to do it too much, though. Mental health experts caution that compartmentalization can become an unhealthy coping mechanism if you don’t address the underlying emotions.
6) They can manage their emotions
Speaking of emotions, this is an area where pressure pros excel. When the heat is on, they keep their cool.
They can stay calm and collected even in the most intense situations.
Think about those people who work in crazy, stressful jobs – firefighters, cops, soldiers, surgeons, social workers…I mean, those jobs would be impossible to do if you didn’t know how to manage your emotions!
Because when the pressure’s on, you need a cool head to make rational decisions.
How do you get to that point?
You can start by practicing deep breathing, meditation, or other relaxation techniques to stay centered when you feel overwhelmed.
And don’t forget the importance of self-compassion – give yourself permission to feel your emotions without judgment, and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.
7) They’ve got an inner cheerleader
Part of emotional management is knowing how to cheer yourself up. Because let’s face it – it’s hard to stay motivated all the time. You’ve got to have a way to trick your mind into pushing on, especially if the stakes are high.
So, how do they do it?
Simple – they are their own biggest fans! They can give themselves a pep talk when the going gets tough. They’ve got positive self-talk down to an art.
So, if you want to cope with pressure better, start building up your own inner cheerleader.
As author Dean Graziosi says, ‘If you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t.”
The reverse is true – if you tell yourself you can, you will!
8) They have tons of energy
What’s the natural effect of cheering yourself on? Why, it gives you a deep source of energy to draw from!
People who thrive under pressure seem to have a never-ending supply of energy. That’s because they know how to refuel and recharge, even in the thick of it all.
It totally makes sense; after all, if you don’t maintain your physical and mental well-being, you’ll find your energy levels dwindling down.
9) They know how to prioritize and focus
Another thing you’ll find in people who defy pressure is that they have a knack for zeroing in on what’s important and letting go of the small stuff.
Knowing how to prioritize is crucial when you’ve got time and resources working against you. When you can focus on the most important tasks first, you make the biggest impact with the least amount of effort.
So, when you’re faced with so many things to do, don’t buckle just yet. Remember that not everything is equally important. Figure out which ones need your attention first, and stop sweating over every tiny detail.
10) They’re contagiously optimistic
Finally, one thing I’ve noticed that pressure-loving peeps have in common is that they are unfailingly optimistic.
They have that snappy, peppy, can-do attitude, and it just spreads like wildfire to everyone around them.
It’s a really great attitude to have because otherwise, how can you deal with all the pressure and the curveballs life throws at you?
I like to think of optimism as a force field that shields us from incredible stress. I imagine those arrows filled with negativity, demands, and expectations bouncing away from me whenever I’m brimming with positive energy.
So, do you think you have what it takes to not just handle, but to thrive, under pressure? Of you course you do. Just keep these traits in mind and put them into practice in your life.
When you can loosen up and embrace the chaos, you’d be surprised how much you’re capable of. It’s all about perspective!