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5P's of Processing Pressure - PAUSE

If you are old like me and you hear the words ‘under pressure’; pretty quickly the tune, lyrics and faces of David Bowie and Queen come to mind. Whether it is at work, leading others or in life generally, the lyrics ‘pressure pushing down on me’ is something most of us have experienced. Bowie and Mercury recounted how they ‘turned away from it all like a blind man, sat on the fence but it doesn’t work’. So, how do you deal with processing pressure?

In the next five weeks the topic of these blogs and on our podcast this month will be exploring the 5P’s of Processing Pressure.

  • Pause

  • Ponder

  • Partner

  • Present

  • Practise

This week we explore ‘PAUSE’.

Moments of pressure

Each of us has pressure that comes in different shapes and sizes. Pressure comes externally (that others put on us) and internally (what we put on ourselves). When our shape pressure comes it feels all encompassing. I remember as a headteacher having moments of pressure to make important decisions. A school parent arriving on site carrying a gun case to collect his child from school. An escaping drug dealer chased by the police making it to the edge of the school site and police not being sure if the dealer had got rid of some of his stash on our site. High stakes decision making is needed in that moment. Then there are those high-pressure personal moments. Moments when you have to decide how to respond to someone’s behaviour. Moments when you have been made redundant or removed unfairly from your job and you have to in that moment decide how to respond. Depending on what we are used to, our character, our beliefs, and our resilience, it will depend on how much pressure we feel in those moments. For each of us though we will have the pressure moments. Our first step it to PAUSE.

PAUSE to let our brain catch up

In high pressure moments, our amygdala, our emotional centre of our brain, can sense threat. It sends signals to the Hypothalmus and then the pituitary and then the adrenal gland to release cortisol (stress hormone) and adrenaline to key body parts (heart, lungs, brain, muscles) to prepare for the fight, flight or freeze response. This emotional part of our brain works 5 times faster than our frontal lobe where we make processing and evaluation decisions. So, the first reason that we pause is to allow our frontal lobe to catch up. We can’t think logically and process the situation affectively in our Amygdala and so taking a few short moments helps our thinking to catch up. What else helps you in this moment of pause?

  • Take a deep slow breath

  • Ground yourself in this moment - Look for 5 things you can see; 5 things you can hear; 5 things you can feel.

  • Go for a little walk (exercise combats cortisol)

  • Think about things to be thankful for (thankfulness releases the hormone DHEA that combats cortisol)

Steve Peters, psychologist, explains in the Chimp Paradox, how in moments of heightened anxiety we need to a) acknowledge our emotions and b) remind ourselves of a time when it has been ok. This helps calm our emotional side of our brain, our chimp as Steve Peters calls it. In this moment of pause we can do this. "I am feeling anxious. I have dealt with someone like this before and it was ok."

In pressurised moments, our brain tells us we don’t have time we need to respond now. In some cases, it does require immediate response. But, even in those moments you can take 5-10 seconds to pause and slowly breathe. In many causes, we can just say, can you give me 5 minutes and we will reconvene. In those 5 minutes we can ground ourselves.

A key phrase i cover with my coachees at the moment is 'Respond don't React.' Pause allows us a break and enables us to take some thinking time in the moment so that we respond in our Frontal lobe and not in our Amygdala.

Next week we will look at PONDER, when we examine the situation, and to do that we need to be using our frontal lobe and not our Amygdala. PAUSE allows us time to re-engage our frontal lobe, It allows us time to respond rather than react..

If you would like help to review and reframe you pressure, contact us at Everyday Leader. We can empower you to gain clarity with some simple questions to help you understand and manage it better. Give us a call at 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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