Something’s going wrong. You’re worried and your mind starts to race. Your old friend Panic is nuzzling up to you and wants to snuggle. Your brain asks, “What if X happens? What if Y happens? What if? What if? What if?”
We have all been stressed about how to keep calm under pressure. Pressure is relentless and the brain, overreacting as usual, only seems to exacerbate the situation. We are living in extremely stressful times. However, success and failure isn’t determined by our stress, but by how we manage that stress in our daily life.
While not easy, managing stress is a much more attainable goal than it may sound. Here are four easy tips that you can employ today to calm your mind and create healthy mental habits that will let that calmness grow over time.
Take a deep breath
One of the most effective ways to train this response is to learn how to breathe properly.
Shallow breathing, a common reaction to stress, means that the diaphragm muscles are not being used. When we’re not breathing deeply, it stresses our bodies, which then leads to more shallow breathing, and so on.
So if you find yourself taking small, quick breaths from your upper chest, try these steps:
Disconnect from work. Take a break. Relax. Ignore the emails and switch your phone to airplane mode for a few minutes. Close your eyes.
Concentrate on slowing your breathing. Put your hands just above your belly button, and place your feet firmly on the floor. With your eyes closed, take slow breaths. Imagine your belly is a balloon you are trying to inflate. Breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth. You will calm down in just a few moments.
Block Out The Noise
When under pressure, remove yourself from the situation temporarily. It’s during moments like these that you need time and space to think and consider the possibilities moving forward.
Letting go of physical tension goes hand-in-hand with taking a deep breath. As your body viscerally responds to stress, it will tense up. Let that tension go as you exhale and visualise yourself somewhere more peaceful.
Let your mind wander
To both induce and maintain a sense of calm, you need to interrupt that feedback loop. The mini-break should resemble an actual vacation.
The process of removing your focus from the activities causing high levels of stress will allow you to gain perspective and the motivation necessary to get back at it in a more relaxed state of mind.
Your mental vacation can be thinking of anything, from happy memories to upcoming events you’re looking forward to. It doesn’t have to be momentous; something pleasurable like a delicious meal enjoyed with friends works well. Of course, if you’re an adventurer at heart, you might want to fantasize about finally conquering Everest.
Write down the tasks you need to accomplish
Our lives are busy, and with the Internet, work never stops. We’ve lost the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day; the sense of having done a good day’s work isn’t as readily available to us when urgent emails and text messages can interrupt us at home, at mealtimes or in bed. The act of writing our thoughts down forces us to give coherence to stressful thoughts, which not only lessens the intensity of these thoughts, but can even negate them. Studies have shown that pressure-filled situations can deplete a part of our brain’s working memory and make us less effective. Remember to add “mini-break” and “breathe” somewhere in the middle of your list.
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