From wall street traders to firefighters to surgeons, the ability to stay calm in a difficult situation can mean the difference between success and failure and sometimes even life and death.
While research has shown that the brain functions best when it is in a moderate state of arousal (not too stressed, but not too calm), most people describe their work life as being highly stressful. So how do the most successful people keep their cool under pressure?
These 10 tips will reveal their secrets.
1. STAY POSITIVE
Instead of counting your challenges, and letting them defeat you, look at obstacles as opportunities to learn . A negative outlook is the best way to cause a snowball effect into feeling overwhelmed. Any problem is chance for you to shine. Have confidence in your ability and other’s will too. Instead of thinking “why me?” start thinking “bring it on!”
2. AVOID THE CAFFEINE ROLLER-COASTER
Energy spikes and crashes are the last thing you need when you have a lot on your plate. Isn’t daily life enough of a roller-coaster? Furthermore, caffeine stimulates the very areas of your brain that cause you to feel overwhelmed in the first place. Ditch the energy swings–Opt for water instead.
3. BE LIGHTHEARTED
One of the most effective ways to handle difficult, stressful situations is to laugh. You should always be aware of fear and use it, not let it use you. Learn to manage your fear through humor. Laughter releases hormones that calm you down and put you back in control.
4. IDENTIFY THE STRESSOR
Try to Zero-in on what is causing your stress. As always, identifying the problem is the first step to solving the problem. Being able to identify the enemy allows you to figure out what its weaknesses are and which of your strengths are most likely to be useful in any given situation. Just like with a child who is afraid of the dark, things are never as scary when you fully understand them.
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Take some time to step back from the situation and relax. This will help you get reorient and get a fresh view. Take a walk, read a book, watch a movie, or, even better, meditate. It is critical to do something that takes your mind off the situation that is getting you worked up and stressed out. You will find that you are much more effective at problem solving once you have taken time to rejuvenate your mind.
6. REFRAME THE SITUATION
After taking time to decompress, you will probably find that you have a different perspective on a challenging situation. Try to embrace new ways of thinking while viewing problems from many angles. You may realize that you had been attacking a challenge inefficiently and come up with a better more focused approach.
7. MAKE A PLAN
When you fully understand what you’re confronting, you can start to develop a step-by-step plan to your goal. One method highly successful people use is back-casting. Back-casting is where you think about and focus your goal and identify each step you need to reach on the way to achieving it. From this point, it becomes much easier to determine when each step needs to be completed to stay on track. Nothing eases stress quite like a clear plan of attack.
8. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
You may have deadlines to meet and people to impress, but that doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice sleep to get there. Losing sleep not only damages your health, it also decreases your effectiveness. A tired mind, incapable of thinking clearly, just makes it more difficult to stay calm. We learn and adapt best when we are rested.
9. ASK FOR HELP
Being afraid to ask for help is one of the best ways to feel overwhelmed. Take advantage of a great asset–the people in your network who have skills and knowledge that you don’t. More often than not, people are happy to help in any way they can. Knowing that you have a solid network that has your back can really reduce stress.
10. MENTALLY PREPARE
Prior to a project even beginning, highly successful people train their brains to stay calm when the pressure is on. It comes naturally with experience, but it’s also something you can develop consciously. Developing your mind for stressful situations can be fun too. Find games that encourage mental flexibility and utilize a time limit. The app store on your phone has loads of puzzles and games that can help sharpen your brain-power.