When Under Pressure, Reach for a Guiding Principle

ID-100211471Everyone has strategies to deal with challenging situations, but under pressure it’s not always easy to stay calm and resourceful. The most useful thing you can do is set aside time when things are going well to document your go-to set of principles to guide you when times are tough. Unnecessary? Maybe. Helpful? Outrageously. By examining your current strategies, it’s easy to discover areas that consistently trip you up.

Some less that successful strategies that I discovered and committed to giving up included:

  • Jumping in to fix things  when someone I was mentoring simply needed time and space to find his own answers.
  • Avoiding uncomfortable conversations.
  • Eating chocolate, chips, or grabbing another cup of coffee to soothe myself.

Without a set of principles, you’re likely to react automatically, like I did, rather than responding strategically. You’re likely to feel symptoms of stress in your body – a pain in your neck, butterflies in your stomach, and sweaty palms for example. No one makes their best decisions from a stressed state of mind. A peaceful mental climate helps set things right.

Some useful principles to select include:

  • Listen before you talk. Most stressful situations happen because of a breakdown in communication. Choose curiosity over annoyance.
  • Ask a question, instead of giving instant advice. Inquiry will often help the people you’re dealing with find their own solutions.
  • Make peace with reality. Let it be okay for your colleagues, family and friends to feel whatever they feel, and say whatever they have to say. After all, the alternative fights reality. And in a fight with reality – reality always wins. You’re more likely to have a positive influence on a situation when you’re not fighting that it exists.
  • Pitch out perfection. Consider any mistakes you make as tuition toward your education and a form of accelerated learning. This shift will help you eliminate avoidance, be willing to take risks, and grow.
  • Self-sooth using your breath. Three slow deep breaths will do more to calm your nerves than food, a game of Candy Crush, or any of the other sabotaging strategies that are far too common.

A quick way to soothe yourself through discomfort is to acknowledge how you’re feeling and give yourself what you need.  Say to yourself, “I’m feeling frustrated.” Then give yourself compassion rather than waiting to receive it from someone else. The moment you acknowledge your own feelings of angst it starts to dissipate.  This is so much more effective than bottling up negative feelings, as they eventually spill out sideways and almost always undermine your intention to set things right.

How about you? What’s one principle you hold on to when dealing with a stressful situation? And how do you soothe yourself into a more resourceful state of mind?

Photo credit: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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