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The ability to handle stressful situations and stay calm under pressure is an in-demand professional skill, regardless of your field or role. However, when you’re in the midst of nerve-racking circumstances, it can be difficult not to let it get to you. Stay calm under pressure with these tips:

1. Focus on Your Physical Response

Stressful situations affect both your mental and physical states. It can be difficult to calm your mind when your body is experiencing physical symptoms of stress, like increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or shakiness. Focus on controlling your physical response first by breathing deeply and slowly. This will signal to your brain that you are not in danger and that it’s okay to relax. 

2. Pause Before Reacting

The ability to stay calm under pressure is reliant on your impulse control. Falling apart under stress is generally due to immediately accepting your brain and body’s responses and not questioning them. Instead, remember that you are in control. Once you realize you are in a high-pressure situation, pause before you react in any manner. This interrupts the automatic stress response and puts you back in control of how you choose to react. 

3. Switch Your Mindset 

When you are in the midst of a high-pressure situation, you are likely only thinking of everything that is overwhelming you. Take control of your thought patterns and switch your mindset. Take a few moments to remind yourself of positive factors, such as thinking of all the things within your control, the skills you have, or simply the fact that this current situation soon won’t matter. 

4. Commit to Your Values

Often in the aftermath of stressful circumstances, people experience regret with how they handled it. Empower yourself by deciding ahead of time how you want to deal with these situations. Commit to your values. For example, if a core value of yours is treating others with respect, tell yourself you are not the kind of person who takes their stress out on other people and hurts their feelings. Then when you are in a high-pressure situation, remind yourself of your personal values as you make choices on how to navigate it to minimize regret (i.e., “Although I feel frustrated right now, I will not snap at people because that is not who I am.”)

5. Break It Down

When it comes time to determine the practical next steps to handle the issue(s), don’t look at it as one major task that needs to be fixed. Instead, break it down into the sum of its parts. Analyzing high-pressure conditions by identifying all of the smaller subtasks it consists of will help you be able to take immediate action in an effective manner while remaining calm. Focus on one subtask at a time, and don’t think about the following step until it is fully completed. 

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