Feeling pressed for time, I accidentally hit “reply all” instead of “reply” when responding to an email. As soon as my finger left the key, panic struck! I immediately began worrying about the negative ramifications of my mistake and whom I might have pissed off!
Can you relate to the feeling of dread and panic described above? Does your behavior when stressed tend to help or harm your efforts?
Given the unrelenting demands most of us experience, I’m pretty sure we’ve all wanted a “do over” from time to time. Not only has social media made such a "do over" impossible, it often allows our mistakes to live on forever in a gazillion social platforms.
If only we could stay calm under pressure!
“Keep Calm and Carry On!”
The key to staying calm under pressure is found in our brain. If we can train our brain to be our ally, instead of our foe when stressed, we will be able to stay calm under pressure.
Following are10 effective behaviors that will train your brain to help you stay calm under pressure.
1. Be Grateful! Countless research demonstrates that people who are grateful for the positive things in their lives have lower cortisol levels – the hormone associated with stress. Researchers at the University of California, Davis demonstrated that people who felt gratitude had increased energy, positive moods and an overall healthy sense of well-being. If you begin your day feeling calm, it will be easier to stay calm when stress comes your way.
For more information on how gratitude impacts your health and your ability to handle stress, click here.
2. Think Positively. When under pressure, if you can think of a positive situation or thought, it will distract your brain from dwelling on the negativity of the stressful situation, which often feeds on itself, creating a circular doom and gloom case scenario in your brain.
Thinking positive thoughts allows your brain to keep stress in check by shifting its attention to a “stress-free” zone in our brain.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James
3. Go off the Grid. I know, I know, it is really hard to shut off your cell phone, pull yourself away from your computer, and totally disengage from the electronic world. However, it is imperative you do just that; otherwise you are in danger of frying your brain and burning out. If feeling overwhelmed is your emotional baseline, stressful situations are bound to put you over the edge.
Being constantly “on” does not give your brain the opportunity to rest, de-stress and re-charge, making manageable irritations feel unmanageable.
If you’re reading this blog I’m pretty sure our national security is not riding on your availability. Therefore, train yourself and let others know (in an appropriate way) that you are “off the grid” for specific periods of time such as evenings or weekends.
4. Get Sleep. When we are sleep deprived normal stressors are blown out of proportion, often feeling insurmountable. Following a good night’s sleep, that same stressor experienced when sleep deprived doesn’t feel like such a big deal.
Take a page from the old milk commercial: “sleep does a body good!” Click here to read the scientific proof behind this statement.
5. Be Active. Physical activity keeps your body and mind healthy. You don't have to train for a triathlon to gain all the wonderful benefits physical activity has on your health and overall well being. Simple activities such as walking and climbing stairs get the job done.
Physical activity stimulates the vagus nerve (a part of the autonomic nervous system) that calms the body down, which is necessary for staying calm when under pressure.
6. Practice Meditation. Studies show meditation helps with stress, blood pressure and staying calm in stressful situations. Meditation activates alpha brainwaves that relax you, allowing you to mentally distract yourself from things that are bothering you. Click here to read more on how mediation helps you stay calm when stressed.
7. Don’t Play the Victim. When things don’t go according to plan, professionally and personally, avoid the “whoa is me” thinking. Playing the victim only adds stress to what is an already stressful situation.
Remember - we cannot control all the stressors that appear in our lives, but we can control how we respond to them.
8. Eat Healthy. A few years ago my son introduced me to a book titled: “It Starts With Food” - and the title says it all. Food provides the fuel and foundation for a healthy brain. A healthy brain is key to staying calm when under duress.
9. Breathe Fully. Breathing provides oxygen to the brain. IF the brain is not appropriately oxygenated, it is impossible to stay calm under pressure.
The appropriate way to breathe is to inhale deeply filling up your chest and stomach with air, then exhaling slowly and deliberately. Click here to read more on how to breathe stress out of your body.
10. Keep it All in Perspective. Two questions I’ve asked my clients and kids over the years when things go wrong: “What is the worst thing that can happen now?” and “Will this make any difference in two years?”
Chances are the answer to these questions will not incur loss of life. Anything less then that must be kept in perspective. Sure, your boss might yell at you, you might loss a big account, your spouse might be really pissed off, but nobody is going to die.
Incorporating the above behaviors into your life will result in having a trained brain that will help you stay calm when under pressure.
Comment below if you have any additional behaviors to add that you've used to stay calm when stressed.