Tips for Staying Calm Under Pressure and Not Getting Emotionally Hijacked
Our focus in the past few blog posts has mainly concerned long periods of stress, particularly Five Ways Leaders Can Reduce Stress, and How Leaders and Employees Can Reduce Their Stress Levels. Additionally, I shared with you 3 Ways For Leaders To Reduce Stress At Work and 3 More Ways For Leaders To Reduce Stress At Work. All of these blog posts have also explained why all leaders need to take immediate steps to reduce workplace stress.
Let’s now look at managing your emotions and staying calm when stress levels are momentarily escalated, often due to time-sensitive deadlines or crisis situations that suddenly appear.
In such situations, stress may actually help us perform better. Many of us have experienced times when the pressure of deadlines forced us to concentrate better. As a result, we experienced the phenomena known as “flow,” resulting in some level of peak performance.
On the other hand, instances of unexpected stress or too much pressure to handle may lead to emotional outbursts, impaired cognitive responses, and even physical ailments.
Here are three methods for staying calm and controlling your emotions when stress threatens to take over a situation and hijack you either emotionally or cognitively. You will note that several of these have similarities with the techniques described in those earlier blog posts referenced above, and for good reason — negative stress is negative stress, whether it is the short-term kind or it hangs around for lengthy periods.
An attitude of gratitude. Daily reminders of what you are grateful for builds a solid wall against stress. Research conducted at the University of California Davis revealed that people who spend time daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness experienced improved moods, energy, and physical wellbeing. Researchers believe that such daily gratitude practices, including the keeping of a gratitude journal in some instances, lowered levels of adrenal cortisol, the hormone which is associated with increased stress.
Remain positive. Our brains like to wander. They also like to attach themselves to random thoughts, either negative or positive. Rather than allow our brains to decide which thoughts to focus on, we need to be proactive by focusing on stress-free thoughts.
Usually concentrating on any positive thought will do, even recalling positive experiences or successes from your past. This comes naturally when things are going well and our moods are great. But it takes a concentrated effort to do so when negative moments and bad news comes our way.
Cancel the negative self-talk sessions. Spending more than a few minutes chastising yourself for a mistake, a decision that turned out wrong, or for not speaking up for yourself or your ideas in a meeting is a sure-fire way to entice more stress in your life.
Ruminating on negative thoughts, particularly about one’s self or one’s actions, gives them more power to create additional stress for you to deal with. Additionally, almost all negative self-talk centers around thoughts and opinions, not facts. But continuing to internally discuss and reinforce these thoughts and opinions gives them the credence of facts to our minds.
Clearly identifying and labeling negative self-talk as mere thoughts, and then separating them from the actual facts (i.e. you do not always make poor presentations vs. yesterday’s presentation was not your best effort) will help close the cycle of negativity swimming around in your mind and help move you to a more realistic and positive outlook.
In the next blog post we will give you three more ways that leaders can remain calm when under pressure and stress. In the meantime, please add any of your own tips and techniques in the comment section below.
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.”