To stay calm under pressure, move your attention inwards to focus only on the next step. Take 3 slow, deep breaths, and use gratitude to refocus your attention. Keep yourself physically and mentally prepared by eating a healthy diet, getting adequate exercise and enough sleep, and practicing meditation.
Our brains come with a wonderful mechanism designed to keep us safe.
Essentially, whenever something happens that feels like a threat to us, we start to go into flight-or-fight mode.
Out in the wild this is a hugely useful system, because it shuts down much of our cognitive function and forces us to focus on either fighting or running away.
Unfortunately, unless you happen to be jumping out of the way of an errant motor vehicle, there’s not much call for that system in our modern lives.
We tend to perceive minor things as threats, which in turn disrupts our thinking. Not enough for us to run away or fight, but definitely enough for us to feel frustrated.
And as you might expect with something that shuts down a good chunk of our thinking, being frustrated makes it even more difficult for us to complete the very thing that made us frustrated in the first place.
Without even noticing ourselves doing it, we can spiral from happy to frustrated and annoyed.
And as the pressure goes up, it gets worse.
That is, unless we learn a few simple tricks to handle it and help us to remain calm and relaxed no matter what life throws at us.
Here’s what to do to stay calm under pressure:
1. Meditate To Keep Yourself Calm
You’ve probably heard this before, and there’s a good reason for that.
One of the biggest gains most people can get comes from learning to meditate and practicing it frequently.
But there’s a problem: How do you find the time to meditate?
As it turns out, meditation does not have to involve lengthy sessions of going deep inside your own mind.
Most of the time when I meditate, I use what I refer to as micro-mindfulness.
The really nice thing about micro-mindfulness is that you can use it anywhere.
When I’m working at my computer writing articles like this one, all I do is occasionally pay attention to the feel and solidity of the keyboard, mouse, and desk for a few moments at a time.
Other times I might be working on my boat, or doing some renovations, and I’ll allow myself to become lost deep inside the process. There’s something deeply satisfying about building something physical.
And sometimes, I’ll be out walking through the forest or along the beach, and I’ll stop for a few moments to take in the details of just one tiny spot.
Take a few moments to look through a typical week in your own life, and you will find lots of things you do where you can meditate by doing nothing more than paying attention to the details.
Learning to meditate and building it into your daily life in a way that causes it to happen automatically leads towards enhanced feelings of calm and balance.
2. Eat A Healthy Diet
Let me ask you a question: How well would your car run if you poured sludge into the fuel tank?
Not well at all, right? At least, not for any length of time.
And yet, somehow, we imagine that our bodies won’t react in just the same way when we fill them with junk.
When we eat a healthy and nutritious diet in the right quantities, our entire system works better.
In turn, that makes it easier for us to remain calm.
Pretty much everyone knows that we should exercise a certain amount each week in order to remain healthy.
What you might not know is that when we exercise, our brains produce chemicals that help us to feel good.
And it is much easier to keep calm when we already feel good.
But there’s a problem: These days most of us lead hectic and full lives. How on earth do we fit exercise into our already busy schedules? And how do we keep ourselves motivated so that we actually do it?
All the way back towards the end of the 20th century, Ellen Langer ran a study in which she did little more than tell some hotel cleaners that the work they were already doing was exercise.
The result: Improved blood pressure, body weight and overall a significant increase in healthiness.
4. Good Sleep Makes It Easier To Stay Calm
Long ago, I used to run a business where I would provide IT support for other small businesses. Some of these businesses were remote and would need stuff done fast, so I would drive over to them, work solidly for 2 or 3 days without a break, sleep, and drive home.
It wasn’t until my partner tagged along on one of these trips and pointed out how cranky I was after being up all night working that I realized just how large the effect was.
And interestingly, as soon as she pointed it out, I was then able to spot my own crankiness in the future.
Up until that point, I had no idea.
When we don’t get enough good quality sleep, we perform far below our optimum.
And as a part of that, we quite often don’t even notice.
On the other hand, when we’re well rested, everything becomes easier. And that includes keeping ourselves calm.
5. Make Gratitude A Habit
One of the single simplest things we can do to improve our lives is making a habit out of expressing gratitude.
There are lots of ways we can do this.
To begin, start off by saying thank you whenever the opportunity arises.
You can make it into a habit by keeping a gratitude journal. If you’re unfamiliar with that, a gratitude journal is nothing more than a book (or these days, an app on your phone) in which you can write stuff down.
At a set time each day, take a few moments to write down 3 things you’re grateful for. These can be tiny, or huge.
The key is to be consistent: Write in your gratitude journal at the same time every single day.
That’s literally all there is to it.
When we do this, we start to become more focused on the positive.
And as you might imagine, it is a lot easier to remain calm in just about any situation when we place our attention on the good things in life.
6. Stay Focused On The Next Step
When we look at everything we have to do to complete whatever we’re working on, it can seem like an insurmountable task.
And when something seems impossible to finish, we can sometimes react by becoming stressed and spending all our time thinking about everything we have to do.
Naturally this slows progress.
On the other hand, when we focus only on the singular task we’re working on right now, this problem goes away.
The issue is that our brains can only keep track of a tiny handful of things at once.
Help yourself to remain calm under pressure by focusing only on the task you are currently working on.
As an added bonus, when we are mono-focused like this, and our task is neither too easy nor too difficult, we tend to move into flow.
And when we’re in the zone like that, it becomes almost effortless to stay calm.
Keep planning separate from doing the work whenever possible.
7. Focus On Your Breathing
Breathing well is the key to many things in life.
Any time you feel anything starting to perturb you, take 3 slow, deep breaths. In through the nose, and out through the mouth.
Breathing in this manner gives us a sense of control, which helps us to feel calm.
And the pattern of in through the nose and out through the mouth causes us to relax, which also helps us to calm down when stressed.
It’s a two-for-the-price-of-one deal!
8. Reframe Whatever Is Disturbing You
You’ve probably heard the saying every cloud has a silver lining.
As it turns out, this one is more-or-less completely true.
It is always possible to find the positives in anything.
So any time you feel something starting to disturb your calmness, take a few moments to change the way you’re looking at it.
Step back and look at the big picture instead.
Figure out the positives surrounding whatever has disrupted your inner peace. And then use those positives to change the frames and keep yourself calm.
9. Use Self-Hypnosis To Stay Focused And Calm Down
No matter what we do, sometimes life throws us a curve-ball and if we don’t catch it in time, we can end up freaking out.
Not only that, but all of the steps to prepare yourself to more easily remain calm take some time to implement.
What’s needed is a way to calm yourself down right away.
This is where self-hypnosis comes in handy!
If you find yourself more stressed than you’d like to be, there’s a simple process you can follow to calm down. The entire thing only takes about 2 to 3 minutes to run.
There are lots of variants of this, so I’ll give you the one that’s worked for me.
This process is effective enough that it can stop an in-progress panic attack and can calm people down from anger or rage. It can even be used to keep calm in the heat of an argument.
In short: It works when you’d like to calm down and stay that way.
Even in the most stressful situations.
To calm yourself down quickly, hypnotize yourself, then scan through your body looking for anything physical associated with that unwanted excitement. This could be things like a racing heart, shaking, feeling something in the pit of your belly… I’m sure you know the usual tells.
Next, focus on just one of those signs, and notice all the physical details. What are the boundaries like? How does it move? What color is it? Don’t try to change anything. Just allow yourself to go deep inside the details.
Finally, pay attention to what those details do for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not try to force anything. Just watch. And notice.
I’ve used this process on myself and others, and so far it has worked just about every time.
And the times it didn’t work? On those occasions it probably would have worked, but I switched to something else instead part-way through.
The key to making everything in this article work is to practice it before you need it. That way, when you need to keep yourself calm, you’ll have the tools ready to go.