Some people you can only admire: They manage to keep their calm, no matter what life throws at them. And we all know how hard it is to stay calm in every situation.
It’s an important and valuable skill: If you do it well and manage your stress levels, you’ll feel more in control and make better decisions. So let’s have a look at why it is so hard to stay calm under pressure and what you can do about it.
And remember: However calm and confident somebody might seem, we never know what people are actually feeling inside.
What’s really happening?
In life, we won’t be able to completely avoid situations that are frightening or even dangerous. And it’s a normal survival response to panic and ignore everything else to focus on the perceived danger. And the first thing to do is to accept it for what it is instead of trying to combat your stress.
What we’re encountering in stressful situations is the fight-flight-freeze response of our primitive brain. It’s our survival mode, it’s our mind stepping in to look after us. Appreciating that and understanding what is going on is the first step in trying to remain calm.
Another reason you may feel you’ve gone from zero to 100 in a split second is that the primitive brain is not creative. It is irrational and emotional. It cannot gather information quickly enough to assess the situation. So in order to survive, it chooses to immediately panic rather than stay calm – you could be a risk of being eaten by the polar bear after all!
This also tends to be a trait of perfectionist personalities – that all-or-nothing mentality is playing well here. Calm or extreme panic – there’s nothing in between.
What can you do to stay calm in every situation?
Here are my top tips to help you stay calm in every situation:
1. Take deep breaths – taking slow deep breaths calms you down and clears your mind.
2. Practice mindfulness – look at where you are right now in the present moment, observe your thoughts and feelings, and don’t deny them, they’re trying to tell you something. Respond rather than react to the situation.
3. Use positive self-talk – talk to yourself in a reassuring way to help calm your nerves.
4. Visualise – try to picture a calming image, maybe a place that makes you feel safe or has good memories for you. This will relax both your mind and body.
5. Identify the source – what is the source of stress, and what is causing it? To try and ignore the stress can be counterproductive as then it can turn into fear which will only raise your anxiety levels. Facing it head-on can be extremely empowering.
6. Practice self-care – take care of yourself by eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and enjoying positive activities. This may sound a bit bland but what you’re really doing is giving your brain plenty of signals that you are safe and in control. It helps you to feel more balanced and therefore much more capable to handle stress.
7. Reframe the situation – look at the situation from a different perspective. Ask yourself if there is another way to look at the situation that will give you a different perspective. A clever way to do this is to think about what advice a trusted friend would give you right now.
8. Take action – I’m not talking about big things here. Have a look at the small steps you can take to take control of the situation. It can seem overwhelming at first but by breaking it down into small steps you’re doing something about it, it will make you feel in control and you’re moving in a positive direction – this is really solution focused!
9. Take a break – can you step away from the situation even for a few minutes? You’ll be surprised how much difference this can make. Removing yourself from the situation altogether might not always be possible but when it does please do try it. Often our knee-jerk reaction in the moment comes from a stressful place, usually a place of anger and fear, but by taking a few moments out, by calming yourself down away from the perceived threat you will regain more objective and rational control.
10. Seek support – if this is a regular occurrence and you need to learn to manage your panic better then seeking support is crucial. Learning to remain calm is a skill that can be developed over time. It takes practice and persistence, but you can learn to manage your emotions and respond to stress in a calm and effective way.
So if you want to be like those people you see, cool as a cucumber in all situations, then start today by practising these techniques to stay calm in every situation. Good luck!