“I work better under pressure.” I hear these five words all the time from new coaching clients. This simply isn’t true. It’s a myth! Procrastination, overbooking ourselves, and leaving important things to the very last minute results in stress and not doing our best work. In fact, science says that our brains actually perform worse under pressure and stress. Read on to learn more about “the pressure myth” and real solutions for meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals in your business.
I used to be a big time subscriber to the pressure myth. When I was in college, I was a champion overbooker and procrastinator. While earning my undergraduate degree, I waited until the last 48 hours to study for my multivariable calculus exam. I barely passed the test by the skin of my teeth and it was a miserable experience. I didn’t learn my lesson. Later, I took 32 credits in a semester, in a quarter system. It was way too much. I was constantly behind and stressed out. My grades suffered and I didn’t retain the information. Then, I got really sick. It was like my body was saying, “OK lady, enough is enough! Cut it out!”
Your Brain Under Stress
As a graduate neuroscience student, I found myself doing a lot of reading about the brain and stress. (Pretty serendipitous, huh?) What I found blew my mind! According to Harvard University, stress can negatively affect your brain function and memory. Stress can cause a disruption in the synapse regulation in our brains. Synapses are connections in our brains that allow thoughts and feelings to happen. Our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain which is responsible for decision making, memory, and learning is negatively affected by stress. Extreme and chronic stress can cause brain cells to die.
Your Brain When You Reduce Stress
According to a study in the journal Nature, we learn better and have better memory when our brain is in a relaxed state. In addition, being in a relaxed state has positive affects both mentally and physically. When relaxed, we have a lower respiration rate, have more endorphin release, have slower brain waves which allows for rejuvenation in our brain’s chemistry, and our immune system functions better.
Solutions to Relieve Pressure and Stress
I learned the hard way through a major health crash about the pressure myth. But you don’t have to take yourself to the brink like I did. You can start applying some simple solutions (or Soulutions!) in your life and business right now to take the pressure off and perform at your best. Here’s some simple practices that work for me:
- Practice mindfulness with your time – mindfulness (noun): The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Before I say yes to something today, I stop and think. Is this realistic for me? Do I actually want/need/feel excited about doing this? I am more intentional about how I spend my precious time.
- Schedule everything (including self-care and fun!) – I schedule everything, EVERYTHING I want in my life on my phone, which is synched with my calendar on my computer. In the past, I used to only schedule work tasks, or important events. Now I schedule in my self-care time, fun time, breaks from work (I like to call this recess!) The positive impact this has on my daily life is pretty amazing!
- Use scheduling links – when booking calls and meetings for my business, I use my Calendly scheduling link. I have my calendar setup and synced with my scheduling software. This saves me time on back and forth and also ensures that people are booking with me at times that are best for me.
- Set two deadlines – I front load work by setting two deadlines and work periods for myself. For instance, let’s say I’m writing a speech to give at a conference. I set one early deadline and work period for myself 10 days before the conference. Then, I set a second deadline and work period for three days before the conference. If I meet the first deadline, I reward myself. I schedule something fun for the second work period.
- Reward yourself – like I said above, I reward myself for getting things done early, instead of just filling my extra time with more work. I reward myself every time I complete a goal. Rewarding ourselves is scientifically linked to better performance. I wrote about this in my previous post The Science of Self-Love.
After reading this post, do you still believe in the pressure myth? Why or why not? If you’re looking for more ways to reduce stress and practice mindfulness in your life and business, I highly recommend my Affirmation Card Deck. I created these cards as a tool you can use in daily self-care and self-love practice.