Everyone faces pressure at work. But whether pressure turns into stress depends on how you react to it. The good news is that, with practice, you can change your default response. Even if you’re someone who typically gets flustered in the face of pressure, you can train your brain to be calmer when a stressful event arises. When a challenge strikes, a study from Harvard Business School shows that our response can typically be categorized along three specific, testable dimensions:
- Cool under pressure. Are you calm and collected, giving your brain a chance to see a path forward, or is your mind filled with anxious, worried, and stressful thoughts that wear you out?
- Open communicator. Do you share your struggles with people in your life in a way that creates connections, or do you keep them to yourself and suffer in silence?
- Active problem solver. Do you face challenges head-on and make a plan, or do you deny the reality of what’s happening in your life and distract yourself?
To deal with the stress, make a list of five stressful events from your past that you were successful in solving (for example, maybe you got through the breakup of a relationship or met a tight deadline on a big project). The next time you feel your heart starting to race, remind yourself of those accomplishments — and your ability to chart a path forward — by looking at the list. Choose a small, meaningful action that you can take to get your brain moving forward, even if it doesn’t solve the problem.