When a serious situation arises at work, your first instinct may be to panic. Unfortunately, severe anxiety and stress can result in a complete meltdown. This response can cause long-term damage to your health and lower your ability to perform optimally.
Many of the world’s greatest achievers, including entrepreneurs, athletes and artists, could not have reached their level of success without learning how to stay extremely calm under pressure. They have the ability to develop and maintain a particular state of psychological readiness, a mental preparedness they summon on demand.
Whether you’re an athlete or own your own company, poise is a prerequisite to peak performance. When you’re composed, sufficiently practiced and self-assured (strong enough to move mental mountains), you are poised for success.
Here are eight tips to help you keep your cool in stressful situations:
1. Slow down.
If possible, don’t react immediately. Instead, be patient and collect as much information as possible. Ask yourself, Is this really going to matter a year from now? If the answer is yes, step back to remove yourself somewhat from the situation. Instead of seeing yourself as an active participant, try to view yourself as a representative of your company. This perspective will help you remain less emotional and improve your ability to make decisions.
2. Stay positive.
When stressful situations occur, your mind may go in a thousand directions and some of your thoughts may be negative. The more your mind wanders, the more difficult it will be for you to remain calm. Stop yourself from beginning to imagine the worst-case scenario. Instead, let go of negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive, no matter how small.
3. Never ask “what if?”
This worst question you could ask yourself or others in the middle of a crisis begins with “what if.” This line of questioning induces sheer panic and forces you to process situations that have not occurred and may never happen.
“What if” questions compound the fear and escalate the problem. Say your company has failed to deliver a project on time. Your first instinct may be to think, What if my client decides to hire someone else? That thought could easily lead to the question “What if I don’t make payroll this month?” Instead, focus on the facts and work on a solution.
4. Take care of your body.
If you make your personal health a priority, you’ll be better equipped to handle a crisis. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and receive plenty of sleep. Exercise lowers the level of stress hormones and helps the body function at its highest level. By improving your health, you’ll increase your self-control, memory and emotional intelligence — important characteristics that will help you respond well to an emergency.
5. Limit caffeine.
When you’re in the middle of a dire situation, you might be tempted to run to the break room to grab a cup of coffee. Caffeine may trigger a release of adrenaline, giving you a quick burst of energy and physical strength, only to be followed by a crash marked by fatigue and irritability in some cases. Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee, soda or an energy drink, hydrate yourself with water.
6. Call a trusted friend or mentor.
Use your support system and don’t be afraid to ask for advice with a stressful situation. Someone who isn’t emotionally invested in the situation will be able to see the dilemma from a different perspective and can help you arrive at potential solutions. When you reach out to people you trust and respect, you’ll feel more grounded. That security will help you control your stress and anxiety. As you explain the situation, you may even start to share your thoughts out loud, which might prompt you to discover a new approach or solution.
Pull away from the situation for a while, even if only for an hour or two. When you give yourself time to process a dilemma and the surrounding emotions, you’ll be able to approach the situation with a fresh perspective.
8. Develop a coping strategy.
A crisis may require you to put in long hours at the office or spend weekends working at home. If you remain in a prolonged state of stress, you may cause long-term damage to your health and undermine your ability to make rational, informed decisions.
To better cope, develop a ritual you enjoy. Perhaps you’ll choose to meditate in the morning. Take regular walks or sign up for an exercise class. Short exercise breaks can increase stamina. These techniques can help you feel more empowered to handle many situations.