Performing Under Pressure
In order to give that presentation from a centered place; to play the best in a tournament; perform that solo with ease; or deal with screaming children, a certain letting go is required. Yet letting go of self-limiting barriers is easier said than done. Why is this?
As evolved human beings, we are smart - perhaps too smart. Conceptually, people understand why holding on to past situations or feelings of stress are not helpful when time to perform.
And, we are conceptual beings.
We are also beings with body. We are somatic beings, with biology and things to move and respond with. Many times, we numb sensations below the neck because we don't like how certain things make us feel. Yet, somatically, how we respond to stress is embodied and always shows up, especially when pressure mounts. Even in our smart brains we can't escape it.
Oftentimes, we try real hard to think our way into relaxation, yet relaxation is a state that resides in our whole body, not just the brain. Our body is the place where heart rate, body constrictions like jaw tension, shoulder strain, neck strain, back pain, knees locking, eyes tensing, nausea, headaches, joint pain and autoimmune diseases happen - just to name a few.
All signals of those disease come from sensations in the body. The deeper health issues in the body are forms of energy. Because we're trained to analyze & intellectualize, we use thinking methods to try & ease to get rid of that energy, but it ain't going anywhere. We may start by taking deeper breaths, which is a great start; yet we're still in our head about the sensations that arise and try to force them away with that breath. For sustainable results, first is body awareness and then choice.
Body awareness & practice for kicks:
As you read this, what's your jaw feel like?
Where's your breath?
Did you just take a deep breath?
How are your eyes?
Are you actively seeking to take in every word?
What happens when you soften your jaw & eyes?
What happens when you bring attention to loosening your stomach, relaxing your toes & taking longer exhales?
For me, I feel shallow breathing as I'm attempting to convey immediately useful information. After taking a few deep breaths, I allow my organs to drop & the content flow out with much more ease. I am writing this from my bathtub which kinda helps with the relaxation into. I like all the bubbles.
Constriction, tension, heart rate increasing - it's our body's sophisticated way of responding. It's also energy.
Giving attention to the energy that shows up allows us to integrate brain & body. We respond the way we do because it's how we've survived in stressful situations up to this point.
Before now you've realized that there's stuff you want to do or be, yet unable to attain. You may think that there's no way to shift that. You won't shift it through thinking alone.
When our body responds to pressure, it is an awesome time to acknowledge that our body created a way to do this. This is what has given us meaning, purpose and a way to keep ourselves safe within the comfort zone sphere we are in now. Moving into that edge of comfort/discomfort takes a certain dancing with what has been before we get to what will be.
To get to the next level, it takes knowing why we are who we are now. In order to get to next phase an invitation is to build some time in each day to check in with where your body holds tension, temperature or sensation. A way to do this? Set a reminder for a few times a day. Take a mindful stop to be in the present moment with what is. Get to know your body. It has served you well.
Andrea Bordenca is married with 3 boys, runs two businesses & is in physical training for competition of some sort most weeks. She is a living embodiment of creating action from care & is in awe of human potential. She helps people lead their teams, organizations, schools and lives from the care and longing that resides in our bodies.