How to be Calm under pressure

At some point, we all have been in a rising panic situation. Every time someone realizes they have made a serious mistake. Missed your last flight to an urgent meeting, missed a slide in a client presentation or skipped an important deadline.

Everyone makes mistakes and thus resultant pressure is inevitable; the secret ingredient to getting past them is to your calmness. Like Anger Management, Pressure Management too is a great area of study.

New research from the Harvard Business School shows that most of us are wrong to go about staying calm the wrong way. How many times we see people around us, who welcome the challenge of a crisis. Challenges excite them and they perform far better than those who have to try and force themselves to be calm.

Study author Allison Wood Brooks says, “People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective. When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well.” 

Staying composed, focused, and effective under pressure is all in your mind. People who can successfully manage the crisis, are also able to channel their emotions into producing the behavior that they want.

In other words, their anxiety is translated into energy and excitement by them.

  1. Use your logic

Making a big mistake is surely embarrassing. Your boss might yell at you, it might even affect your next performance appraisal but it is highly unlikely to make you lose your job, make you homeless, or any of the other extremely catastrophic thoughts that fuel anxiety and keep you from getting focused.

  1. What is the worst that can happen?

In such a situation two questions you are recommended to ask yourselves:

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen as a result of this?
  • Will this matter in five years?

These will for once get you over the anxiety and help you build confidence by picking up the pieces and make things better. In all perspective, this is “Being Calm”.

  1. There have been worse situations.

Remind yourselves of similar or worse situations you have experienced and have successfully overcome. Alternatively, look at the people in your company who have made serious mistakes are still there and doing just fine. 

‘There’s more to me than this situation. One honest mistake won’t define me.’  

  1. Look at the world below you.

It would never be advice or be right to set a lower benchmark than yours’. But in situations like these, you are expected to see yourself as the center of the maelstrom. But you should realize that your boss, and everyone else, will spend more time trying to improve a difficult situation than worry about you. This is where you too should be focusing on in the first place. By the time they will have the space to think about you, you would have already become a part of the solution.

  1. Focus on the repair.

Logical thinking is the key to keep yourself focused on the solution and getting it fixed. Drill down into questioning yourself.

  • What exactly happened?
  • What are the possible repercussions?
  • Is there still time to avoid those repercussions? If so, how?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • If it is too late to avoid repercussions, what can be done to mitigate the damage?
  • Don’t self-accusations run through your mind.
  1. Action Time!

Once you’ve answered the questions above and figured out what exactly needs to be done, own up to the situation. Once you fold your sleeves and get into cleaning up the mess more, it gives you a sense of focus, power, and energy into making things better. You will feel empowered and will no longer cling to the anxiety.

Remember, the study where getting excited by the challenge improves your performance dramatically.

  1. Summary

The ability to manage your emotions and keeping calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. A research conducted by Talent Smart with more than a million people found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

Nobody likes making mistakes. But no matter how big the mistake is, being in the panic mode is not going to help. It becomes difficult to think about the solution while having catastrophic thinking hijack your mind. It undermines your ability to make good decisions and to move forward effectively.

Instead, use these strategies to stay calm so you can assess the situation, develop a plan, be accountable, and get busy making things right so you can move on.

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