How to Learn to Stay Calm under Pressure

Now and then all of us come across situations which are way above usual everyday pressure. We feel that stakes are too high for our liking, we get flustered and bungle. Then the same scenario repeats itself. It is too bad, something must be done to break through the vicious circle. Let’s look into the matter.

Why do we react to stress the way we do?

As psychologists assert, when people come face to face with a situation they feel to be emotionally threatening, they revert to the manner of behavior they employed in childhood. Children habitually run away, hideaway or get sullen if they don’t like the way things are shaping. Also derived from the infantile range of reactions are ones like “shutting out,” throwing tantrums, sometimes throwing things that are at hand. Screaming is one of the common ways to react when troubled.

Ensure your bodily health

Eat healthy. Look on food as fuel for your activities. Focus not on dropping weight but on effective functioning, for which you need five meals per day – not excessive and low on the carbs.

Get more sleep. It’s true that not all of us can clock in eight hours every night, so what we can do is focus on getting quality sleep – meaning, more hours of deep sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark and not too warm, and it’s quiet around.

Exercise. Regular exercising does great work in weakening stress, diminishing anxiety and keeping depression at bay. When you work out your body generates serotonin and other high-spirit hormones, and inhibits cortisol, the hormone linked to stress.

Meditate. Harvard scientists revealed that eight-week meditation results in enhancing the function of the hippocampus in the brain (that is, improving regulation of emotions), and in reducing the amygdala brain cells, thereby weakening the brain area linked to stress and anxiety.

Be grateful

The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA asserts that regular expression of gratitude impinges on the brain; its neurochemical influence activates all neurotransmitters that provide stress responses (serotonin, dopamine, nor-epinephrine and suchlike).

Gratitude is practiced quite easily by writing down things you are thankful for in a special “gratitude journal.” People often take such things for granted, but the idea is to concentrate on them (and consequently ease your worries).

Maintain control on your attention

When we are pressurized so that we have to brace ourselves to withstand the onset, we need all the concentration we can muster – and distractions break it down. Worries and uncertainty tear up concentration, impair our performance and lead to various blunders.

Recognize and deal with onsets of panic

The usual mode to work for individuals who encounter challenging and demanding situations is fight or flight! It may have been all right when we were kids, but it won’t be really applicable to a job interview or the delivery of a decisive report at a business meeting.

As emergency arises, stress hormones overflow and give us enough drive to be able to cope with the situation. But after the danger or the challenge has blown over, the abundance of stress hormones can be harmful causing chronic conditions. So, a stressful situation requires some good relaxation technique afterwards.

Stop overanalyzing

Also, panic can easily be caused by setting too much store by monitoring how things are going (particularly when you are busy with some important task). We must take into account all the details of the progress – but they cause emotional response, which in some cases can be very strong.

Often this relates to motions we perform subconsciously. There was a study examining professional golfers who are so accustomed to putting and do it without putting their minds to it. It appeared that golfers fared fare better when they were instructed to give the ball a good stroke than when they were asked to strike while going over the technicalities of the stroke in mind.

That means that if your skill has turned mechanic, you mustn’t think about its performance in detail any more – it will impair the performance.

Get busy concentrating your attention on things you need done

If you feel you are caught in the web of ceaseless self-analysis, force your attention away from useless ponderings towards whatever you are doing at the moment. Staying mindful and concentrated can eliminate the feeling of anxiety and help you enhance your performance. Keep your mind clear and make a deliberate choice what to focus on.

Bear discomfort with good grace

When you know that a challenging event is coming, and you can’t avoid it, don’t run away from discomfort but bear with it. It is quite right that you should feel under pressure, and it could be an incentive to work. Go and face your fear: practice your speech or presentation on friends, go looking for additional information that you may need to make your answer at the examination even more impressive. Take on extra problems beforehand to be better prepared for your high-stake performance, both psychologically and intellectually.

Think of a ritual before you start to prepare

If you arrange to sit back and take several deep breaths before you get down to your task or do some physical jerks, or maybe you need a distraction to take your mind off worrying – establish a short ritual after which you immerse yourself in your work with assuredness.

Do breathing exercises to breathe in the best way possible

Observe how you are breathing during work. If you have shallow breathing, you are not using all the capacity of your lungs, and your diaphragm muscles are out of work. Make sure you inhale a lot of air, enough to fill the chest completely and protrude the stomach.

If the knack eludes you, lie down, place your hands on the stomach around the navel and feel its movements when you are exhaling slowly. Focus on the undulation and tell yourself ‘breathe in,’ ‘breathe out’ as you inhale and exhale. This way you adjust your autonomic nervous system for higher productivity and at the same time weaken the possible onset of anxiety or panic.

Reinvent your life to achieve a clearer perspective

When was the last time you prioritized your life? Maybe the situation has changed since then, and you need to evaluate anew your abilities, experience and perspectives. If faced with a crucial period, you may find the reassessment extremely useful.

Shun those who introduce negativity into your life

Having negative, derogatory and acerbic people around you undermines your ability to maintain control over your situation. With stresses ahead, try to stay away from such people and their inconsiderate comments.

Find new labels for old emotions

Expecting a high-stake stressful period, consider your protective emotions (like ‘fight or flight’). Fight means struggle, but what if it’s merely the necessity to defend your point of view and collect more arguments? Flight means fear, and it can be just a lucid understanding of the importance of your presentation. Concentrate on the new labels and think of ways to make your position sturdier.

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