Performing Under Pressure – step up and deliver!

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We’ve got a great ‘guest’ blog this week from Rebecca Chidley, a trainee psychologist who’s just in the process of qualifying to work with elite performers. Rebecca has set up a Sport Psychology support business (Life-in-Sport) and over the coming months, will be sharing some of her thoughts and experiences in working with high level performers in sport and steps she has taken to develop her own performance. This week, she starts by sharing her own experiences of how she copes with pressure.

‘Judgement day’ was a week away. The moment I had built towards for 3 years. The Viva Interview that could mark the end of my journey as a Trainee Sport Psychologist. A positive outcome and I would lose the ‘trainee’ aspect of my tittle. Unleashed as a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist, a new beginning. But, this experience found me feeling the pressure.

Our personal understanding of what we need to implement to perform under pressure is always food for thought. I understand what I need to do to perform well. I know what works for me and have become better at recognising when I waiver from these steps. However, the Viva signified so much and I allowed this to get on top of me. But, I recognised the signs (just) and remembered my steps.

Here are 5 steps that help me perform under pressure:

Work with the pressure

It is easy to allow the pressure to overrun. It affects what you think, do, feel, etc. Acknowledging the pressure can be the first step to getting back on track. Understanding why you are feeling it. That it is reasonable to feel that pressure. But most importantly, how you can make it work for you.

Seeking support

Who do you need to speak to and why? Pressure can mean we avoid certain situations or people. And as we become focused on one thing we lose productivity in other areas. Talking to the right people will help you rationalise the pressure. You can then re-focus on the important things.

The journey

Where have you come from? Where are going? And what part does this event play in the bigger picture of ‘your journey’. Going through these questions can help you find a suitable level of significance for the situation. Then you are in the right head space to attack the processes.

The processes

After thinking about the journey allow yourself to think about the steps to reach your outcome. Don’t become overwhelmed with the possible outcomes. Focus on what you need to do to get you to where you want to be. Remember – you can do other things with your time (and you will most likely benefit from this). The event in question doesn’t have to become your focus 24/7.

Stay active

When talking to people under pressure, exercise is the first thing that goes from their routine. This allows them more time to focus on the task at hand. But does this additional time mean you are still productive? Exercise has benefits in a busy schedule. Do something as a break from work that gets you moving. This step will to allow you to manage your physical energy as well as your mental readiness to tackle your busy schedule.

I lost sight of these 5 points because I focused on the wrongs – the big prize, worst case scenarios, and the future – not on all the stuff I could control in the here and now. Despite knowing the theory of what to do, I started to go down the pressure trap. Luckily I regrouped to be in control, focused on the process and ready to deliver what I needed to deliver in the viva. The result? I passed and am now a Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about how I perform in those key performance moments, and will be doing a few things differently in future.

Next time you’re in a potential pressure moment, slow down, take stock, focus on the process and use the 5 tips to make sure you stay on track…


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