The Serena Williams pressure test

Going back a few years ago, Serena Williams was playing, I think it was the Wimbledon final. It was the last set, and it was like a nail-biter finish.

One of the commentators said, “Oh, Serena…I wonder if she’s gonna crack under the pressure.”

“There’s a lot of pressure on Serena to back this up.”

And the other commentator said, “Well that’s the thing about Serena, pressure to a superstar isn’t pressure, it’s the opportunity to perform, and that’s what she does best. Let’s just watch.”

And of course she throws one down the line, and she wins Wimbledon.

High performers experience stress just like everybody else, but they just process stress differently. What we’ve got to understand is, that stress is not the enemy, it’s your relationship with it.

How do you relate to stress? When you feel stressed, what are the loops that you run? When you experience stress physically, what happens in your body? Do you feel it tighten up?

There are so many different things that happen when you’re experiencing stress, but it’s not the enemy. What is the enemy is the inability to regulate stress because stress is part of our natural experience.

How do we regulate in those situations that matter most? In those clincher moments when it’s really important to us to perform in the way we want to show up.

My top 3 stress regulation hacks

1. Awareness of state

First and foremost, you need to become aware when you are stressed.

You need to become aware of when you are emotional, and most of us don’t even know when we’re not, because we’ve been so stressed and so emotional for so long, we don’t know what a normal baseline feels like.

A good place to start is to engage in things like meditation so that you can find a normal baseline, and start to recognise when you are out of whack.

Things like respiration are a great indicator of where you’re at. If your heart rate starts to increase, and if you start feeling a little anxiety, chances are you’re experiencing an emotion, or you’re experiencing some level of stress that needs to be regulated.

2. Use breath to regulate

The next most helpful thing you need to do is, you need to breath deep. Breathing deep is an incredibly powerful way to reset our neurology and our biology. Just by breathing in for a count of six , holding for six, and breathing out for six. You do that five or six, seven, eight, nine, ten times and you will feel your anxiety start to leave you body.

You’ll feel the stress and the emotion start to subside and you’ll get a level of clarity that’s much greater than it was five minutes ago.
But you must be willing to engage with this.

Every single one of you can breathe, the reality is are you doing it in the moments that matter at a level that’s required, at the depth that you need, in order to regulate the systems?

3. Manage your perspective

And thirdly, you need to manage your perspective.

The reality is that whatever you’re feeling emotional about, whatever’s stressing you right now, is just your point of view. It’s just a perspective, and the reality is, it’s just one perspective. It’s one of the millions of perspectives that you could take on the situation. It’s that perspective that will determine the biological and neurological response you’re experiencing in the moment.

Most of us are so unconscious when it comes to associating a meaning, that we just allow the flood of meanings to come in and we don’t even question them. We just allow responses to situations to come through, which normally is in the effect of a stress on emotion.

The truth here is that you’re in control, you can choose what things mean.

The question is, are you willing to choose well? And, are you conscious enough to recognize that maybe right now you’re choosing a meaning that is disempowering and is producing stress or emotion that’s not helpful.

Become more conscious and choose a meaning that’s helpful for you.


You’ve got to become aware of when you are stressed. You’ve got to learn to use your breathing when it matters, and you’ve got to learn to manage your perspective.

Go and regulate something that you need to resolve today.

You got this, I believe in you. Go for it!

Kerwin Rae