Knowing how to stay calm under pressure can mean the difference between getting through a tough situation successfully or crumbling when you can’t afford to.
Sometimes we find ourselves in times of distress, where we seem to lose our mind and allow emotion and adrenaline to take over. The key is knowing how to remain cool during tense moments and coming out the other side in one piece.
Let’s look at 7 different strategies to help you remain calm under pressure.
The simplest and probably the most important tip is to pay attention to your breath.
When adrenaline hits or we get caught up in a pressure situation, our breath changes. Sometimes, people begin to hold their breath without realizing it, or their breath becomes fast and shallow.
This is an evolved response that isn’t very useful anymore. Unless you find yourself running away from a tiger, not paying attention to your breath can exacerbate a pressure situation.
Before reacting or responding, pause for a moment, pay attention to your breath, and take 1 or 2 deep and slow breaths.
It can help ground you to the situation and slow down your processing just a little bit, enough to come up with a rational solution to the situation you’re in. Panicking will rarely help you.
2. Remove yourself from the situation
How often have you become lost in thought and up in your head when the pressure begins to hit?
Take a step back, and remove yourself from the situation. Take a look at what’s happening without you there. Try to get a more rational look at the situation.
This can help separate your emotional response to the situation and help you come up with a more practical and useful solution.
3. Use empowering language and reframe the situation
Feeling the pressure can cause us to go down a negativity rabbit hole.
“I can’t do this”
“I’m never going to get through this”
“I don’t know what to do!”
Reframe the situation. Start the process of finding a solution with empowering language.
Instead of saying “I should…” say “I will…”. Instead of saying “but…” say “and…”. Instead of saying “it’s a problem” say “it’s an opportunity”.
Remove limiting language from your vocabulary and you’ll begin to frame pressure situations a lot differently and set yourself up for a better chance to succeed. Drop the words “just”, “but”, and “maybe” from your lexicon.
4. Avoid unhelpful thinking habits
There are many unhelpful thinking styles that can trap you if you’re not helpful. When you’re under pressure, it can be easy to fall into this thinking, which won’t help you when you’re trying to remain calm.
Here are some of the more common ones that you might relate to when you’re under pressure:
Jumping to conclusions: Assuming we know something about the situation we’re in or the pressure we’re feeling doesn’t help us remain calm.
Catastrophizing: When things get bad, we tend to make things a lot worse in our heads. Don’t allow yourself to overblow the pressure you’re feeling. Take everything at face value.
5. Focus on one thing at a time
Sometimes when the pressure mounts, it feels as bad as it does because it’s so overwhelming.
There’s so many things and steps that need to be done to get through the situation!
Instead, break down the problem into smaller chunks. Focus on one small thing at a time. Instead of looking at the task or problem as a whole, and feeling overwhelmed by it, lay out the small steps and tasks that need to be handled and focus on each one at a time.
6. Watch caffeine intake
If you know you’re heading into a pressure situation, be sure to watch or limit your caffeine intake.
Caffeine has a tendency to exaggerate our response to pressure and make it a lot harder for us to remain calm.
Go into pressure situations relaxed. This will ensure you maintain a cool head. It’s a simple tip but one that’s often overlooked or not seriously considered.
Anything that amps you up, you probably don’t want to do or consume before going into a pressure situation. Do things that relax you. Whether it’s a warm bath or calming music, set yourself up to have a relaxed mind state.
7. Get out of your head with meditation
Meditation can help you practice mindfulness and prepare you to better handle and remain cool in future pressure situations. To remain calm under pressure, mindfulness helps us get out of our heads, and be more present, to better handle the pressure.
In times of pressure, we’re caught up in the next thing we need to do, or our minds are paying attention to the wrong things out of fear and anxiety.
Mindfulness can help train you to notice this more frequently and become better at catching your mind doing this, allowing you to bring your attention to what matters: dealing with the pressure and the situation at hand.
Mindfulness meditation is also a useful tool that you can use during times when you’re under pressure. Close your eyes for 1 minute, focus on and count the breaths, and return to the task at hand. It’s an easy and great way to ground yourself and remain cool.
We have a few different mindfulness meditation practices you can use to help you remain cool under pressure.
The first is a simple mindfulness meditation practice:
The other is a mindfulness meditation practice specifically designed for anxiety. This will help you notice those feelings of anxiety and stress that appear during times of pressure.
Use these guided sessions as a way to train your mental muscle and response to pressure situations. Or, use these in times of need, when you’re feeling the pressure and need to calm down a bit.