10 Habits of People Who Thrive Under Pressure

At some point in your life, you’re going to be put in a high-pressure situation where your nerves will be tested. For some people, the ability to cope under pressure comes naturally. For others, it takes some practice.

The people who thrive under pressure are the ones who are able to fall back on tried-and-test techniques and coping mechanisms to keep their cool. They know how to draw on their support network, utilize the tools around them and most importantly, stay flexible.

Here are 10 habits of people who thrive under pressure - and how to hack your personality type to help you keep a level head in every situation.

1. Staying flexible

The trick to dealing with pressure is to know how to pivot your plans. In high stress situations, it’s essential that you’re able to stay flexible. You can’t always predict what’s going to happen – and you may well be hit with extra pressure that piles on top of your original problem – so you need to be able to roll with the punches.

Mastering the art of working under pressure starts with being flexible, adaptable and able to change your approach and pivot whenever it’s needed. If you can learn to shift your perspective and your plan whenever it’s needed, you’ll find it gets easier to thrive under pressure.

2. Knowing the end goal

For many people who cope well with pressure, there is a clear goal or milestone they want to hit. These people have their sights set on a particular achievement and that means they’re not afraid to endure high stress situations to get there. When you know what you want, you can cope with a lot.

Knowing your end goal also ensures that you’re not enduring extreme pressure for nothing. You have a fixed goal in sight and this period of stress is leading you closer to it.

3. Not spiraling

When you’re put in a high pressure environment, it’s common to feel your stress and anxiety levels rising. But to cope with pressure, you need to know how to keep a lid on your natural stress response.

It’s easy to start spiraling during high pressure situations. This is where you question if you can do what’s being asked of you and if you’ll hit your targets or goals, and you may obsess over all the things you still have to do. This type of spiraling does more harm than good as it takes away your focus.

People who are able to cope with high pressure environments are usually good at looking at a situation objectively. They avoid over-exaggerating the task at hand and approach it with a clear head. They hunt down their end goal and avoid overthinking. While it’s easier said than done, if you can master this kind of objective thinking it can help you in high pressure situations.

4. Lots of self-care

Talking of not spiraling, self-care is really essential. High pressure situations can take a lot out of you both physically and mentally. The most level-headed people know they need to make lifestyle changes to help them cope during periods of high stress.

During intense times, it’s really important to prioritize the basics: daily exercise, healthy diet, getting enough sleep and de-stressing techniques. Think of high pressure situations like running a marathon – you have to look after your body and your mind to help you get through it. Whether you find working out, gentle stretching and meditation or nature walks most effective for you, the important thing is to find the self-care strategies that prevent you from burning out when the pressure rises.

5. Utilizing all available tools

You may be under pressure but that doesn’t mean you have to get by with just your determination and your intellect. People who thrive under pressure are good at finding the resources, team members and tools they need to face the situation head on. They understand the power of delegating, automation and following the path of least resistance. It’s not a superpower, it’s just good planning.

6. Finding support

It’s time to let you in on a big secret about coping under pressure… you don’t have to do it alone. The people who are best at coping under pressure are also the ones who have a strong support system around them. 

When you’re dealing with intense pressure, whether at work or at home, it matters who you have around you. To cope with pressure, it helps to have both emotional and practical support. That means people who you can go to for advice and people you can go to for a hug. Sometimes it’s the same person and sometimes it takes multiple people to help you through tough times.

7. Understanding their role

People who thrive under pressure tend to be very good at understanding what’s required of them in a situation and where their role ends. They focus on addressing the situation in front of them and clearly see what tasks they need to complete. 

This subtle skill means they avoid getting emotionally involved in a situation where an emotional buy-in isn’t required, for example in delivering an important project at work. People who are able to excel under pressure acknowledge their role for what it is and don’t overcomplicate things. 

8. Falling back on routines

When you’re in a high pressure situation, it’s really useful to have routines and habits that help you take care of the small things. There’s a reason that some of the most successful people in the world have a ‘uniform’ or a team of stylists who tell them exactly what they need to wear and when. 

If you’re stressing about small details like your wardrobe, your meals and your morning routine, you’re using up valuable energy that could be spent dealing with the task at hand. Save the creativity and self-expression for a less high pressure time. If you want to thrive under pressure, you need to develop habits that you can fall back on when you need them. Be strategic.

9. Trusting their judgment

High pressure situations are made a lot harder if you’re constantly second-guessing yourself. The people who are best at thriving under pressure know themselves and trust their judgment. They’re able to evaluate a situation and act decisively.

This not only saves time, it also saves mental stress and energy. Many high intensity situations require quick decision-making so if you can master this skill, you will find it easier to cope in high pressure environments.

10. Taking it one step at a time

Ultimately, thriving under pressure is all about taking any situation one step at a time. It’s about understanding the task at hand and what’s required of you and not panicking. While a project or challenge might seem insurmountable at first, if you can break it into chunks and see the problem as a series of smaller steps, it becomes a lot easier. 

Thriving under pressure is all about mindset. If you want to work on this side of your personality, try adapting your habits and your thinking to help you adapt to high stress, high intensity environments.

Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth is a freelance writer and ghostwriter. She’s an anthropologist at heart and loves using social theory to get deeper into the topics she writes about. Born in the UK, Elizabeth has lived in Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Dubai before moving most recently to Budapest, Hungary. She’s an ENTJ with ENFJ leanings. Find out more about her work at bethharris.com

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