Emma Raducanu's Wimbledon loss: Expert tips for coping with pressure

Emma Raducanu has opened up about the pressure of expectations. (Getty Images)
Emma Raducanu has opened up about the pressure of expectations. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Emma Raducanu has addressed the weight of expectation on her at Wimbledon, dismissing claims she was under pressure to perform as a "joke".

Last September, the 19-year-old tennis ace made history by becoming the first-ever qualifier to win a Grand Slam tournament when she beat Leylah Fernandez to scoop the trophy at the prestigious New York-based US Open.

Unsurprisingly the historic win catapulted her from school girl to one of the most-talked about players in tennis overnight, so naturally all eyes were on her at Wimbledon this year, with many hoping she would see a similar result in the home tournament.

But it wasn’t to be as Raducanu went out in the second round, going down in straight sets against Caroline Garcia.

In the post match interview afterwards, when asked about suggestions that she was under pressure to perform, she replied: “There’s no pressure. Like, why is there any pressure? I’m still 19. It’s a joke. I literally won a Slam.

“Yes, I have had attention. But I’m a Slam champion, so no one’s going to take that away from me. If anything, the pressure is on those who haven’t done that.”

Read more: The Emma effect: The rise and rise of Raducanu

There are ways of coping with pressurised situations. (Getty Images)
There are ways of coping with pressurised situations. (Getty Images) (Getty)

What happens to the body when we feel pressure?

While the pressure on Raducanu is extreme, whether she feels it or not, there will be times in our lives that we all experience pressurised situations.

From job interviews to important meetings, exams or make-or-break work pitches, when you're feeling the weight of expectation, both yours and that of others, it can be difficult not to crack under the pressure.

But what happens to the body when we feel the heat?

"When we feel pressured, our nervous system stimulates a rush of hormones including adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline," explains Lee Chambers, psychologist and wellbeing consultant.

"These create the physiological conditions to support us in coping with dangers or threats, including increasing our heartbeat, heightening our perception and directing blood to certain areas, including our muscles and important organs."

Watch: Calm anxiety with deep breathing techniques

Chambers says pressure is a way for humans to activate our stress response and take action.

"It can be internal or external, and can be triggered by a variety of situations and events," he says.

"Often it's activated by something new or novel, something that threatens our identity, things that are unexpected or uncertain, or when we feel we have minimal control over a situation."

While we may associate pressurised situations with negative connotations Chambers says pressure can actually boost performance and enable us to do amazing things when it's managed in a healthy way and doesn't become chronic.

Read more: Health benefits of crying as study reveals one in six Brits never shed a tear

What happens to the body when we're feeling the pressure? (Getty Images)
What happens to the body when we're feeling the pressure? (Getty Images) (Getty)

So how do you cope with pressure in a healthy way?

Prep for the pressure

According to Chambers, learning to focus on what you can control supports you in using it proactively.

"Being organised and prepared in advance is beneficial for times pressure builds," he explains.

Switch your stress mindset

According to the British Psychological Society a concept that’s increasingly recognised as important in terms of being able to cope with pressure is something known as your "stress mindset".

The idea is that if you are able to recognise that there may be some benefits to stressful situations for example honing your focus, upping your motivation, learning from the situation, you will have a positive stress mindset.

On the other hand if you associate the same pressurised situations as being debilitating and unpleasant this will lead to a negative stress mindset, which can have a knock on negative impact on the outcome.

A 2017 study, published in the European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, revealed that when faced with an upcoming challenging day, people with a positive stress mindset come up with coping strategies, boost their performance, and end the day feeling more energised.

For people with a negative stress mindset, the opposite happens.

Read more: How house plants can ease anxiety and encourage happiness

Asking for help can lighten the pressure load. (Getty Images)
Asking for help can lighten the pressure load. (Getty Images) (Getty)

Ask for help

Feeling under pressure can seem isolating but asking for help can be a vital way to ease the pressure when it becomes too much.

Chambers suggests being clear on what support you need which can immediately take some of the pressure off your shoulders.

Read more: Stress could leave you at risk of infections by ‘weakening’ the immune system

Look after yourself

It can be easy to slip into bad habits when we're feeling the weight of pressure, but according to Chambers it's easier to handle pressure when we are well slept and have higher emotional balance.

"Eating well and moving our bodies gives us more energy to channel when the pressure builds," he adds.

Find ways to depressurise

Having a toolkit of relaxation techniques can be useful if the pressure is becoming too much.

"Proactively setting boundaries and priorities can be a great way to depressurise when you feel there is too much to manage," Chambers adds.