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How to cope under pressure, according to psychology

How to cope under pressure, according to psychology
A helping handWhether you're a hospital manager awaiting an influx of injured patients, or a lecturer or a student about to go into a vital meeting or exam, you're likely approaching the point of maximum pressure. What can help?You might hope for a text message from a friend or romantic partner.


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The stress mindset

  • Positive stress mindset: recognizing that stressful challenges can sharpen your focus, strengthen your motivation, and offer opportunities for growth.
  • Negative stress mindset: viewing stress as unpleasant, debilitating and negative.




Positive stress mindset

Those who believe in the potential benefits of stress are less prone to feeling stressed in the wake of difficult life events. 

If you do have a negative stress mindset, there are ways to turn it around.



"Anytime you have low expectations for performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations. Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat."

Sonia Kang, University of Toronto



Time pressure

When put under time pressure, people tend to act more like themselves: selfish people tend to act more selfishly than usual, while pro-social people behave even more pro-socially.

But time pressure can also improve decision-making because it forces people to make tough decisions.



Showing support

Sending a text to a partner confronted with a difficult task really can make them feel more supported.

When you're under psychological pressure, being reminded that there's someone out there who really cares for you seems to be more helpful than receiving targeted advice.



Excelling under pressure

  • being deliberately focused on the task in hand
  • maintaining intense effort over a period of time
  • feeling high arousal levels
  • not thinking about the negative consequences of failure.




High-pressure moments as a (fun) challenge

Most people see "pressure situations" as threatening, and that makes them perform even less well. 

But, "when you see the ...

One of many opportunities

Is this high-pressure situation a good opportunity? Sure. Is it the only opportunity you will ever have for the rest of your life? Probably not.

Before an interview or a big meeting, give yourself a pep talk: "I will have other interviews" (or presentations or sales calls). 

Focus on the task

Instead of worrying about the outcome, worry about the task at hand.

That means developing tunnel vision. When you keep your eye on the task at hand (and only the task at hand), all you can see is the concrete steps necessary to excel.

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The Emotions Matter

We become stressful or anxious while packing for a trip, due to us going out of our comfort zone, or in front of uncomfortable and different people.

Our previous good (or bad) travel experien...

Wheely is Not Speedy

Wheeled luggage is generally seen as a convenience, but is, in fact, a constraint, as once a heavy and large suitcase is with you, you are bound to 'wheel' it around everywhere, cutting down your travel options.

Be a Light Packer

Light packing relaxes you and facilitates spontaneous travel, a minimalistic packing done in a backpack or a shoulder bag works best.

Chronic overpacking, while it seems logical as people can need so many things, is a hassle for travel, as there is so much to worry about and carry along.

Too much baggage leads to a baggage-heavy mindset.

Psychotherapy Misconceptions

People do form conceptualizations of psychotherapy based on media portrayals.

While you may balance out fictionalized, sometimes-damaging depictions of professionals like physicians or...

The Dangers Of Psychotherapy Misconceptions

Misconceptions may make it hard for you to pinpoint the threshold for significant psychological distress in yourself or others. And can add hurdles to successfully initiating psychotherapy or being willing to stick with it.

Understanding what not to expect from the experience can help you approach treatment as an educated consumer with an open mind.

There's No 'Quick Fix'

Some approaches take more time than others, but it is highly unlikely that lasting change for longstanding issues can be achieved in a few sessions of psychotherapy.

The first appointments are to determine if (and what kind of) therapy can be helpful. You will talk about what led you to seek care and about medical, social, and family history to help the therapist get to know you better.