How to handle pressure

My heart is racing. I can feel the steady hammering against my chest. Strong. Loud. My thoughts are spinning. Fast. Unstoppable.

‘What if I cannot meet the deadline?’

‘What if the result is too weak?’

‘What if I am not convincing enough in this important meeting?’

WHAT IF … I fail … I loose… I am not enough!?

The what-ifs kill my sleep. The pressure takes away my joy. The stress assassinates my peace. I am not me anymore … and I have no idea what to think … or do …

I hate these moments. This is not the life I want. This needs to STOP!

So I pause. I breathe. I think.

What if I walk away right now? Just leave the context. Remove myself from unhealthy expectations – even the ones I set up for myself.

I am wondering: Who told me that the meeting was that important? What is the measurement for a weak result? What is going to happen if the deadline is not being met?

I have given my circumstances too much power over my life. Somehow I attached myself to expectations that feel unhealthy. I need to walk away.

As I am sitting in silence and detaching myself from the expectation level, I am realizing how the pressure fades away. My heart beat slows down, I can breathe lightly. This is how I want to live my life.

I am realizing: I don’t need to leave physically. Moving mentally does the trick.

With a deep breath I get up. Ready to go back into the game. Smiling.

‘Move talk’ – winning the asshole-style

Do you remember the last time you gave a presentation and someone in the room made an inadequate, non-content-related comment? Everyone laughed and you felt overwhelmed. Somehow you got out of concept and your presentation was weakened. Afterwards you were frustrated and you would have loved to say or do anything.

In literature you can find this concept being named ‘high talk’ (content related talk) that was hit by a smalltalk comment. It is done by people in the room who cannot challenge your content but who know how to discredit you as a person or in your role – and if you are not prepared, you lose your technical point to a simple joke. You can answer this type of interference either by a smalltalk comment yourself – or you use ‘move talk’, e.g. walking slowly to the respective colleague and look at her/him without saying anything. Once the silence is there, going back to your professional part.

In times of video calls, communication changes. Due to muted microphones, the classical ‘jokes’ that should intimidate the presenter are vastly eliminated. This is deliberating for all people who are afraid of these comments in the room. I believe, our communication culture gets more inclusive in a way. Even people who are not well trained in public speaking, will be less interrupted when speaking up in video calls.

But when it comes to ‘move talk’, many aspects are still working. This is relevant to know because in classical settings, you could answer ‘small talk’ with small talk or even go to the more intense ‘move talk’. But if the first interference already is in ‘move talk’, the classical communication guidelines and ideas don’t work anymore.

How does ‘move talk’ look like in video calls?

In a smaller group, when all screens are visible, ‘move talk’ can be seen by people ignoring the camera, e.g. demonstratively using the phone. More intense is leaving the desk while still having the camera on. These examples aren’t ‘move talk’ in itself – but when the discussion is requiring attention or a decision by a leader and that person is acting that way, it is a message.

What do you do when hit by ‘move talk’?

It highly depends on who is hitting you in which moment with ‘move talk’. Let’s look at two constellations.

The opponent

There are people who will profit from you failing, e.g. a colleague wanting your topic or position. Unluckily, there can also be people who just want you to fail – not because they want to step in but just because they don’t like you. When these people start using ‘move talk’, they want to disturb, so that you feel insecure and lose your point. In any case, ignore the ‘move talk’. Concentrate on the people, who need hearing you. You will not change the opponent – especially not when talking to them or calling out their behaviour. Walk on, don’t even bother.

The decider

If the person who needs to decide, confronts you with ‘move talk’, it will depend how well you know that person. If you need their concentration and they don’t give it to you, you might wanna ask: “It seems, it is a bad time to address this topic. Should I postpone and find a new date for talking?” Maybe they are having a bad time and a new date will make it better. If you don’t have the freedom to ask for postponement, make your point and end. If you need a decision, you could propose the next steps, e.g. “if I don’t hear otherwise, I will do x, y, z and give you an update afterwards.” This puts you in a position of movement – and the decider would need to get active if she/he really doesn’t like it. From my experience, leaders who are bored and don’t feel entertained enough, will act with ‘move talk’. Although the behaviour is quite annoying, those leaders are easy to play as you have a lot of freedom doing your style. Just don’t expect them to help, support or appreciate you. Just keep moving.

On your own journey of becoming a leader, you can decide how do you want to use those techniques in your communication style. It is good to know them when presenting and being ‘attacked’. Using these methods to discredit others in the first place, should be deeply considered as you are destroying trust in yourself. People will not like working with you, when they are not sure whether you will ‘attack’ them with communication methods.

I am in the wrong job

Once you realize you are not happy in your current position, get real and find out what you really want.

The emotion can hit you hard: I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

Independently of how long you are working in you profession, the overwhelming desire of getting a change can sweep you off your feet. Especially after a longer break over christmas and the first few days back in the job, you feel problematic areas even stronger. Back in the holidays you were at peace, but in your work environment you are being confronted with all this negative emotion.

Feeling this inner turmoil, it’s very easy to attribute all the worst reasons to your environment, colleagues, clients and tasks. Finding external factors for your misery is the easiest way. Truth is that these intense emotions are a good moment to get to know yourself a lot better.

  • Why exactly are you feeling the way you feel?
  • What are your expectations towards yourself, your job and the people around you?

While you benefit from getting to know yourself a lot better [thanks, dear turmoil times in life!], you still need to find some sort of solution for your issue with the working environment. Let’s explore the options.

Change it!

The first question arising is: What can be changed? Where is your influence? What is in your hands?

You can change yourself and you can change the situation but you absolutely cannot change other people. Only they can do that.

Joanna Trollope

The writer Joanna Trollope puts it quite well. You need to accept that you cannot change the people around you. You might change yourself – meaning your attitude, expectations, perspective. And you can also change the situation, e.g. not attending a certain meeting, change your seating or regroup your team members. But other people’s behaviour and attitude – including your boss, colleagues, clients – is out of your hand.

Take a moment of analyzing your status quo. What can be changed about the situation? What can be changed in your attitude?

If you are sensing that a lot of your ‘problems’ lay in the behaviour of other people, you might need to check the next paragraphs for a solution.

Love it!

Sometimes a broader view and a different angle of the perspective works miracles. Maybe you don’t really like all aspects of your daily tasks – but you only have a 10 minute drive to work. Or you feel overwhelmed by a lot of responsibility, yet the potential freedom in structuring your time during the day is unique to your position.

When feeling unhappy about a certain aspect in your work life, there is the risk of focussing too much on this particular thing – increasing the problem even further. At the end you only see the negative.

Take some time to write down all the positive aspects of your job. Actively refocus and check areas you haven’t considered yet: location, travel time needed, freedom of selecting tasks or allocating time, payment, tasks, additional benefits of your employer like canteen, sports or health support. Make sure that your brain doesn’t play a trick on you by only focussing on one negative thing that becomes the center of your universe.

Aside from taking a broader view also think of the people around you. Generally spoken, everyone tries to do the ‘best’ in life. So while your colleague or boss might annoy you, keep in mind that they are also just acting based on their perception of what is ‘the best thing to do’. Even if you consider their behavior as ‘stupid’, other people might classify of your actions ‘unreasonable’.

While thinking about all aspects of your status quo, you might already get a different attitude. Are you able to love certain flaws and downsides of your current job – including colleagues – when considering the whole package?

If not, maybe the last option is for you.

Leave it!

Sometimes the feeling of not belonging to a certain place is a good wake up call to leave a job or position. But leaving includes a risk: Why are you sure not running into the same problems in your next job?

If you leave only to avoid certain problems, chances are high that you will end up in exactly the same problems – only with different people. This is why the first two paragraphs are so important to you – or even more important when you consider leaving over staying.

Ideally, you know yourself and the environment you need to thrive. Then you can start searching for that spot in the working market. Rather be ‘drawn to’ a new opportunity, than ‘running away’ from your status quo. With all respect, be aware: if you choose based on wrong motives, you might even end up worse than your current state.

I. am. in. the. wrong. job.

If that’s your feeling right now, use the momentum to explore your status quo. Where is this emotion rooted? What actually needs to change? What do you want in your work life?

Stop complaining and get real.

A pinch of energy

Use your finest memory to regain strength during the day and relax even under pressure. Get mentally strong to conquer your toughest days.

English chitchat mixes with french laughter while the chinese lady next to me is writing text messages in her beautiful font. I am in the middle of Germany and yet surrounded by the world. This is a moment I cherish – being just another art piece in this international patchwork. I am smiling when I think back at that moment – and instantly I am relaxing. Suddenly, life seems brighter and better.

Having these moments of relaxation during the day is important. It strengthens your resilience and energy level during the day. And it is that energy, that you need to be at your best. Being inwardly strong so you can cope with failure easier, smile at the client even under pressure and handle challenging tasks smoothly.

The technique that is used in the first paragraph is called “visualization” or sometimes referred to as “inner balcony”. You use this technique by recalling your favourite places, situations and people. While thinking of that very moment, your brain experiences the same emotions (or lets say: dopamine-rush) as you experienced when you were in that moment. Your brain doesn’t care whether it is actual happening or if you run through a memory – it will react. And you will get the relaxation, happiness and stress-detachment you need.

What is your favourite memory to indulge in?