Have you ever met somebody who seems to stay calm no matter what’s going on?
If so, then you’ve likely wondered what their secret is to staying so even-keeled.
Let’s take a look…
Table of Contents
1) Look after yourself
First and foremost there’s no real way to stay calm and composed if you don’t look after yourself.
This is the crucial first step of keeping it together under pressure.
So what does looking after yourself entail?
- Eating healthily, regularly and staying hydrated
- Getting enough sleep and rest as well as exercise
- Excelling in work and pursuing your career dreams
- Finding a meaningful spiritual path
Put these pieces together and you’re building a solid foundation for yourself to greatly increase the chances that you stay solid no matter how bad the situation gets.
2) Take a pause
If and when the stress hits you, it’s easy to give into your instincts and panic.
Whether it’s work stress, relationship problems, an emergency situation or existential anxiety, all too often we just go with our first reaction.
Many times this gut reaction is misplaced or leads us further astray, such as panicking in a traffic jam and having an accident or responding to relationship problems by breaking up and then massively regretting it.
Take a pause.
Before responding to any stressful incident or situation, sit back and let it be. Even just for a moment. Give yourself permission to sit and breathe, even if you can only afford to take 10 seconds before responding to something that needs your immediate attention.
3) Control breathing
Even if you can only afford a very brief pause, try your best to control your breathing.
This is easier said than done, but it does wonders.
Even if you just slow or control your breath for 10 seconds it will make a difference.
If you’ve just had an accident, just had a major relationship fight, just found out terrible medical news or any other life-altering situation, you do not need to stay calm.
The goal is not to try to force yourself to stay calm: this will just increase the panic.
Instead, think of this as almost a mechanical function like resetting a broken microwave.
You sit and you breathe for a few seconds. No matter how horrible the news is or the situation.
Breathe. Even just for a moment.
4) Assess the situation
After you have inhaled and exhaled at least a few times, assess the situation.
Open your eyes and look around at what’s happening.
Think about what was said.
Consider your injuries, emotional and physical.
Think about your next step.
This could be the worst thing that has literally ever happened in your life right now, so it may sound brutal to say, but the truth is this:
If you’re still breathing, you’re still in the game.
5) Explore options
Whether your assessment takes two minutes or two months, your next step is to explore options.
There may be very limited options.
Your choice may be to declare bankruptcy or take losses on your business for the next two years.
But even if you only have one choice, think about what it means and what it will mean for you.
Think around other ways you can approach this as well.
Are there are third options or left field alternatives? Make sure not to get stuck in binary either/or thinking if possible.
6) Be realistic…
You may be in a position where you can only choose between two or three very undesirable options.
It’s vital that you be realistic.
There are many examples of how this plays out.
For example, you may have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition and be faced with two forms of invasive and painful treatment or surgery.
Which will you choose?
Of course you’d rather choose neither. But you must choose one or make no choice at all, which in this case might have life-threatening consequences.
It’s crucial to be realistic and face the situation you’re in rather than the one you wish you were in.
7) But not catastrophic
At the same time as you are being realistic, it’s important not to give into worst-case scenario thinking.
You may be in a very bad situation or even a life-threatening situation.
You may be poised to go through a divorce or your child may be addicted to drugs.
But no matter how bad the situation is, take it step by step.
Keep in mind that sometimes situations which appear benevolent and “good” turn catastrophic and bad, while others which appear horrible and hopeless turn around.
Don’t ever call the race too early.
Don’t give up.
8) Find allies
No matter what awful situation you are facing, you’re going to want allies.
If you’re all alone in the middle of a storm and you’re kayaking, you may have no allies at all, or your only asset may be your smartphone with 32% battery left.
But if you’re in any stressful or difficult situation or predicament, look around for who might be on your side.
If you’re waiting for a plane flight and there’s a hurricane at your destination and everyone is starting to get upset and anxious, look for the one or two people who aren’t giving into fear.
Watch for that man or woman who looks like they’ve got a handle on what’s going on.
Go chat with them.
9) Do the five senses exercise
The five senses exercise is another great way to stay calm and collected when the cards are stacked against you.
It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
If you have time, sit quietly and reflect on five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
This will take you a few moments to do and is highly effective at narrowing down your field of attention.
Even if you’re in a very emotionally turbulent state, this will calm it down a bit and keep you composed for the next step that you decide.
10) Talk it out with loved ones
It’s never good to offload problems on loved ones.
Venting or blaming other people for what’s going wrong in your life is a very bad move and actually just leads to feeling worse.
But having a respectful and non-indulgent conversation with loved ones about what’s going on in your life and what you’re going through can be an excellent way to stay calm and avoid panic.
Those who love you and care about you often have great advice.
And even if they don’t, the mere fact of being truly heard can be a big boon.
“Explaining your concerns to your friends and family can help you put them in perspective.”
Staying calm and composed over the longer-term is greatly benefited by getting in touch with yourself.
Developing self-awareness is an ongoing process.
Think of it as essentially getting to know yourself more deeply.
You are you, but you’re also an observer and patient communicator with yourself who is learning the way you work and what helps and hurts you.
Learning about yourself and what makes you tick is a great way to remain calm under pressure and maintain your own cool core of integrity.
When you know yourself you don’t allow yourself to be as shaken by outer turmoil.
12) Practicing mindfulness
The overall practice of mindfulness is highly beneficial to staying stable during hard and stressful times.
The five senses exercise I mentioned earlier is one good mindfulness practice.
But in truth mindfulness can be practiced in almost every area of life:
- When preparing food
- When taking the dogs for a walk
- When exercising
- When sitting quietly and breathing
- Even when having sex
The basic way to do it is just to be aware of yourself at the same time as you are engaged in an activity.
Disconnect with a moment from your monkey mind and just allow yourself to exist in the present moment in your body and in this space and time.
Congratulations, you’re now practicing mindfulness.
Staying calm when the heat is on
Those who are able to stay calm and composed are able to do so because their wellbeing isn’t dependent on outer factors.
If you want to be cool under pressure it’s all about keeping the bigger picture in mind:
Even the toughest situations will eventually be resolved, and panic rarely helps improve your odds when the deck is stacked against you.
There is a time for fear and even full alarm, but more often than not those who stay composed under pressure are those who are able to control their own reaction to fear and anxiety.
The anxiety is there, the fear is present but they choose to minimize their reaction to it and stay focused on the task at hand.