Think about your upcoming competition. Are you afraid, eager? Do your palms sweat, or nerves twitch?

The sensations you felt at that moment are typical of high-pressure situations. Unfortunately, pressure and stress can hamper your performance when it’s most essential that you succeed.

Pressure moments can affect performance in sports, during practice, and in competition.

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile’s discovered that pressure negatively affects both decision making and focus. Although some athletes feel more focused when under pressure, the fact of the matter is that while they were undoubtedly completing tasks, their performance was actually on a much lower performance level.

Pressure affects more than sports. The secret to a successful relationship isn’t chemistry between partners but a pair’s ability to interact in pressure moments.

For example, couples who criticize each other, saying things like “You’re too selfish,” put a tremendous amount of pressure on a relationship. As a result, the partnership suffers as each individual inevitably feels dissatisfied with the other.

Stress, on the other hand, occurs in different scenarios. While it’s common to experience pressure in situations where success is crucial like during a college entrance exam, we tend to experience stress in cases with too many demands and too few resources.

But what’s the connection between pressure and stress?

Stress affects us just like pressure by decreasing our performance. But stress is a different phenomenon and therefore begs a different solution than does pressure.

The trick to dealing with stressful situations is reduction. For instance, focusing on only what you’re doing right now will help you manage stress.

But in a pressure situation, you should focus on the final result, whether it means safely landing a helicopter or winning a basketball game. In short, this means in pressure moments you should focus on success and adapt your behavior to constantly advance.