2020 has been one chaotic, life-upturning event after another. In all areas of our lives, we are encountering high-stress situations. As an individual and as a team (whether it’s work, social, or political) the stress can feel immobilizing and overwhelming. But your work and goals are important and can’t be left for another day or altogether abandoned. So, how do you stay focused and move towards your goal in the midst of chaos, tension, and extremely high stress?

Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry has spent the last 22 years studying high performers and how they handle extreme pressure. Through his experiments with professional and Olympic athletes, leaders of Fortune 500 companies, and U.S. Marines, he has created science-based tools to help you perform better under pressure. After studying 12,00 people, Dr. Pawliw-Fry examined what the top 10% performers did to excel under pressure. In his New York Times bestseller, Performing Under Pressure, he offers this advice for pushing through pressure effectively to get the outcome you want and reach your goals.

Play the “what-if” game

We’re always told not to play the “what-if” game-it will only lead to unnecessary worrying. But Dr. Pawliw-Fry says this isn’t always true. There seems to be a time and place. By running through possible scenarios before the high-pressure event takes place you are able to prepare yourself for a multitude of different outcomes. You will be able to brace yourself more soundly if you expect an event, even on the subconscious level of the “what-if” game.

Focus on the task, not the outcome

Yes, every task is something we do to get to the outcome we want, but that doesn’t mean it should be all about the end goal all the time. Focusing on the outcome while you’re in the midst of a high-pressure event will take you away from your performance during the event. Bring all of your focus to the immediate actions needed to get you to your goal.

Use the energy from past successes

Think back to a time you performed this same high-pressure event and were successful. If it has never happened, think about a past success that held the same weight and importance to you. Gain power and be energized through your own previous successes. Also, remember what went well and try to replicate it.

Take control

In any event, there are controllables and uncontrollables. You can’t let yourself think about the uncontrollable. Dwelling on things out of your control past the “what-if” stage will only take away from your performance. Instead, focus on things you can control and give them all of your attention.

Use your senses to override your nerves

It’s never easy to be present, but if you want to perform well under pressure it will be a necessity. One way to be fully immersed in your situation is to get in touch with your senses. Listen to your breathing when you can feel your nerves taking over. What do you see? What do you hear and feel? Tune in and heighten your senses for peak performance.

Get a pump-up ritual

Make sure you’re doing the same thing before every high-stress situation. When you create a pre-performance ritual you let your brain go on autopilot up until the event, creating space for you to think and plan for the event.

This ritual should also involve music which is shown to ease and distract us from anxiety.