I’m not particularly good at staying calm under pressure.
In fact, I tend to quiver and break, so I could use learning about these habits as much as you.
Some people excel under pressure.
I watch my partner for example, who thrives when given a short deadline which requires two all-nighters and a fridge full of energy drinks.
Or who rises to the occasion when presented with what seems like impossible projects, filled with confidence and vigour as opposed to my anxious defeatism.
For those amongst us who aren’t quite as good at maintaining our composure under pressure, what can we learn from those who have excellent cognitive control and manage stressful situations well?
Let’s find out:
1) They don’t mind when plans change
They’re bendy. And flexible. Like putty, or playdough.
They’re excellent at pivoting, which in the business sense (not the Friends couch sense) means to change the direction in which you’re going if things aren’t going according to plan.
Life is incredibly unpredictable.
Being able to ride the wave of change without fear is monumentally helpful in being able to deal with new situations and unexpected changes without anxiety or stress.
2) They have an inherent purpose
If you have a clear vision of where you want to be and what you want to achieve, you’ll often find yourself less stressed on the journey to get there.
Obviously this can go one of two ways:
- you either pull yourself together in high-pressure scenarios and remember that the end goal is worth it
- or you flail around and worry that you won’t reach your end goal because of the stressful situation
Unsurprisingly, the first type of individual tends to be more successful in actually reaching their goals.
Their drive and purpose means that they’re able to endure intense pressure and react calmly as they know that it’ll be worth it in the long run.
3) They’re confident in their own decisions
Whilst blindly going into stressful situations without listening to anyone else’s input isn’t recommended, having faith in your judgment will ease your mind.
If you spend your time second-guessing your own decisions, high-pressure situations will be made 10x harder since you then also have to throw self-doubt and worry into the mix.
Individuals who deal well with pressure tend to trust their own judgment.
Not in an arrogant way, as owing to their adaptability they tend to be very open to feedback and constructive criticism.
They just don’t waste time worrying about whether they’re making the right call and are swift decision-makers.
4) They don’t take rejection or criticism too personally
Those who move fluidly through high-pressure situations also tend not to let criticism or rejection impact their self-esteem.
When faced with high-pressure situations, these individuals don’t crumble and start thinking things like, ‘why does this always happen to me?’ or ‘I must be such a worthless failure’.
Obviously, rejection and failure still suck and bruises the ego.
However, people who stay calm under pressure do well to remind themselves that they’re not the problem.
They’re not being singled out nor are they in any way deserving of a run of bad luck.
Ruminating on what went wrong for too long (although a bit of self-reflection is necessary), before blaming yourself feeds only self-doubt.
Instead, leave those worries at the door and work on adapting calmly to the moment.
5) They incorporate healthy routines
As life crashes down around you in waves that can’t be controlled, it’s always good to have certain elements you can rely upon.
Routine being one of those manageable factors which is (for the most part) within your control.
So basically, if the world around you starts to burn, you can at least fall safely back into the knowledge that you wake up at the same time every day and regularly hit the gym.
Additionally, a well thought out routine and healthy habits mean that you waste less time on unnecessary choices and save up that energy to better deal with stressful scenarios.
Take meal-planning for example.
Thinking ahead and preparing in advance saves time having to contemplate dinner and then cook it after the end of a busy day.
6) They’re big on self-care
But those who deal well with stress might well relish cooking meals and enjoy doing so to unwind.
In this case, meal planning would mean removing a necessary element of the process that keeps them sane and calm under pressure.
Individuals who are good at dealing with pressure and stress are also incredibly on top of their self-care game.
They know that a good amount of stress can be motivating and can help them to work to their full potential, but overwhelming amounts of stress can cause those barriers to break.
The floodgates opening would mean losing their cool and letting the pressure get to them, which usually ends in a burnout.
So, they keep any cracks or holes sealed through practicing regular self-care and being kind to themselves; therapy, journaling, hobbies, you name it.
7) They’re savvy organizers
If you glance down at your to-do list and find it swimming with multiple deadlines and obligations, you’ll likely start to feel prickles of stress and anxiety running up and down your spine.
People who keep calm under pressure know that a great way to avoid feeling overwhelmed with mountainous to-do lists is to better organize and prioritize.
It’s all in the organization, baby.
They’re adept at making sure no chore goes amiss and forgotten, and know how to plan accordingly so that the most important tasks are completed first.
Owing to this ability to plan and organize, much of the stress of having an incredibly busy life teemed with responsibilities is lifted.
8) They master their own thoughts
They just don’t let thoughts spiral.
Part of the art of those who are skilled at staying calm even under immense pressure is often the internal workings of their mind that they have in place to prevent pressure from turning into something negative.
Think about it: pressure by definition means an external force being exerted upon an object.
For many, the right mental state can harness this to their advantage to view pressure as motivation to work harder and get focused.
However, allowing your state of mind to view pressure as solely as a negative form of coercion beyond your control will lead your thoughts to spiral and leave you feeling out of control.
See the difference?
It’s all in the mindset.
Those capable of harnessing their thoughts, controlling their responses, and acting accordingly once they’ve considered all options tend to glide through life and all its stressors with more ease than those who fight the tide of stress.
9) They have the right people to rely upon
Even the steeliest of CEOs who seems like a force to be reckoned with and never wavers, even in the face of crashing markets and overall company doom, probably has someone who they go home and cry to.
It’s just about choosing the right people to support you.
Those who present themselves as very capable of keeping their calm in high-pressure situations will still feel overwhelmed at points.
It’s in these moments that they’ll turn to those whom they trust.
A spouse, a friend, a therapist. Even maybe a hamster.
They have shoulders to cry on should they ever need that stress alleviated.
They tend also to have allies to call upon should they need backup in dealing with that stress; old contacts, trusted colleagues, mentors, and other confidants who will have their back no matter what.
You can’t evade the stress and pressure life brings.
It’ll hit you in unknown places, likely where it’s least expected.
On top of that, you can’t prepare for everything.
The best thing you can do in the meantime is learn more about the habits of people who cope extremely well under pressure.
These habits listed above are only a selection of those used by adaptable individuals to harness pressure to their advantage and use it as a motivational force to propel them forwards.
Even if you’re someone who still gets easily overwhelmed and needs to withdraw to cope with stress, that’s more than okay.
We all cope with stress differently.
However, using some of the above points might be useful in considering how you lighten the load and reshape your thoughts next time you’re faced with a high-pressure situation.