David Strittmatter

3 tips to withstand high pressure

Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary. When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure – Tommy Lasorda


  • There’re three key triggers of a high-pressure challenge: (1) Limited time (2) A critical task (3) Fear of failure
  • After identifying the key drivers of pressure, we can think about possible levers to reduce and make use of it
  • We shouldn’t defend ourselves against stress responses but embrace them

Practical advice:

  • A so-called brain dump – writing out everything you need to do – will greatly help you to release pressure and make the situation more manageable
  • Next to each action then, you indicate when the task needs to be completed so that I can prioritize it accordingly
  • Force yourself to take care of yourself when you’re under pressure

Dear friend,

You most likely agree: Suffering from great pressure is a nasty experience.

When we have too little time for too much work and feel anxiety because we’re afraid that we cannot meet certain expectations, we feel as if the whole world is on our shoulders.

I’ve already faced such challenges multiple times, and I’m quite sure the future will bring some more. Dealing with great pressure is a skill we can attain and enhance. It’s not that we cannot do something about it and have to bear with it.

In today’s article, I want to write about the causes of great pressure and possible remedies so that you can not only deal with it but also perform better.

Causes of great pressure

There’re three key triggers of a high-pressure challenge: (1) Limited time (2) A critical task (3) Fear of failure.

(1) Limited time

When time becomes tight, most people get under pressure. Suddenly, we become hectic, lose track of things, and – instead of speeding up and getting things done – our progress slows down, making things even worse.

(2) A critical task

The greater the responsibility and impact of a task, the greater the associated pressure.

(3) Fear of failure

Fear of failure plays a substantial role. We don’t want to disappoint ourselves, our boss, colleagues, friends, family, etc. and fear the consequences in the social environment.

Fear is the trigger that has the largest influence on our experience, but, fortunately, it’s also the trigger we can best control.

The right mindset matters

After identifying the key drivers of pressure, we can think about possible levers to reduce and make use of it.

(1) Limited time

Yes, a task might have tight deadline, but this has several advantages, too:

  • First, since it’s definite, you surely know when it will be over and you’ll be released
  • Second, there’s still time left – make the most out of it!
  • Third, people know that you’ve got limited time to accomplish the task, lowering their expectations
  • Fourth, time limitations allow us to focus on the things that truly matter and offer the largest impact

(2) A critical task

In high-pressure situations, we need to accomplish crucial tasks, which have a significant impact on something or someone. If the task wasn’t important from our point of view, we wouldn’t feel pressured.

That’s actually a good thing: We now have the chance to prove ourselves – showcase colleagues, bosses, friends, family, and ourselves that we can manage important duties.

Moreover, independent of the outcome, we have a steep learning curve. We’ll never feel the same amount of pressure in a similar situation again. Just by sustaining, we learn to better deal with these kinds of situations.

(3) Fear of failure

Unfortunately, we tend to think rather negatively than positively about great challenges: Instead of viewing the task as a great opportunity, we’re afraid of the consequences in case of failure. Thereby, we set ourselves for failure.

The more we think about a stressor in a negative light, the worse we’ll feel. Hence, we should either avoid thinking about it or reframe the situation. I rather choose the latter.

Plenty of studies show that we systematically overestimate the impact of a negative event on our lives. Hence, even in the worst case, we’re better off than we estimated.

A simple question greatly helps me to escape irrational thoughts: Is that going to matter in 5 years Most of the time, the answer will be no. And this certainty greatly calms me down.

Another crucial aspect of reframing the situation is in the very moment of high pressure: When we’re faced with stress responses, such as our heart beating stronger, breath getting faster, and palms being more sweaty, we shouldn’t defend ourselves against them but embrace them.

We need to think of our body and mind helping us to rise to a crucial challenge. We need to be grateful for these stress responses since they will make us perform better.

3 practical tips to better deal with pressure

Make a list

What are the actions you need to undertake to accomplish your task? Creating a to-do list is my way to go to combat feeling overwhelmed.

A so-called brain dump – writing out everything I need to do – greatly helps me to release pressure and make the situation more manageable.


Next to each action, I indicate when the task needs to be completed so that I can prioritize:

  • Which actions are most crucial?
  • Which actions are most urgent?

Those that fulfill both criteria are the ones I tackle first.

It’s key that if we’re confronted with a major source of pressure, we need to start to break things down into steps and determine what needs to be done right now and what can wait instead of thinking about the entire situation and getting overwhelmed.

Foster healthy responses

When we are stressed and overwhelmed it is easy to fall into bad habits: eating and drinking unhealthy things, consuming too much caffeine, not sleeping, not exercising, generally not taking care of ourselves at all. Forcing myself to take care of myself when I’m under pressure actually gives me more energy and helps me to focus.

I make sure I’m eating enough healthy food and drink enough water. Moreover, I set aside some time to exercise.

Moreover, you need to rest and take your breaks. It’s still a common belief that skipping breaks makes us achieve more – in the long run, though, that’s wrong.

Spend time with friends and family at the weekend. Go outside and breathe fresh air. We handle pressure with more focus and grace if we cultivate healthy responses to pressure, and make sure to take care of ourselves.

Share This Post

Recent Posts

Goal Achievement

Role Modeling

When working out in the gym in Düsseldorf today, I was coincidentally listening to AVICII. AVICII died on the 1st of Apr 2018 in Maskat,