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Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Your presentation, audition, or job interview starts at 10am, but a few minutes before, you start to feel like the clock’s a few ticks away from High Noon. It’s a good thing you used extra deodorant because you’re feeling the heat.

If you’re one of those people who think that they always rise to the occasion, you’re wrong! 25 years of research from around the globe indicates that the overwhelming majority of individuals perform below their capabilities in a highly pressure scenario. This is categorized as a situation in which   they have something at stake and the outcome is dependent on their performance.

Specifically, experiencing pressure downgrades your ability to access cognitive success tools: memory, attention, comprehension, judgment and decision making. Pressure also diminishes your psychomotor skills; these skills include your golf swing, or the ability to walk up to the podium —stumble, trip, crash!

You don’t have to crumble under pressure; you just have to immunize yourself to its injurious effects. Here are some “pressure solutions” that will help you to be cool, calm, and collected so you can do your best when it matters most:

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Write off the pressure

Preparing yourself to give your best presentation or readying yourself for your Monday morning interview starts Sunday night, or the night before any pressure scenario. Pressure often derails you by filling your mind with distracting and anxiety-arousing thoughts, such as “What if I can’t get a job?” or, “I wonder if these clients like me.”

These thoughts have nothing to do with the facts that you need to present, but they do make you lose focus. This will make it harder for you to recall the facts that you need to have at your fingertips. You only have so much space in your working memory, and worried thoughts take up the space that you need for your presentation information, or facts about your previous jobs. Studies show that you can minimize the likelihood of worrisome thoughts surfacing during your presentation if you write down your anxieties about giving a poor presentation the night before. In effect, you are getting them out of your system.

Adopt a low-pressure mindset

Individuals who don’t crumble under pressure hold a particular mindset that minimizes feelings of pressure and allows them to approach their presentations with confidence– not trepidation.

A presentation is a positive event. Individuals often “choke” because they interpret the presentation or crucial conversation as a threatening event, a perception that increases anxiety and fear. Telling yourself that every presentation is an opportunity, challenge, and a fun change of pace will decrease feelings of pressure and allow you to enjoy the experience and do your best. Build these words into your thinking and use them when you think of a pressure-filled scenario.

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A presentation to important clients or an interview for your dream job is very important, but telling yourself that “it’s a chance of a lifetime” will make you think that it’s a “do or die” moment. This will only intensify your feelings of pressure. Instead, remind yourself that this one of many opportunities that will come your way. It’s not a “must game.” Doing so will keep you calm and make it easier for you to focus on doing your best.

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate

What if your power break glitches?

What if several members of your audience leave abruptly?

What if you’re told your interview is a group interview five minutes before you start?

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For most individuals unexpected events cause a pressure surge –a spiked arousal that evokes threatening and defeatist thoughts, causing them to lose their composure, go off-track and miss their mark. It’s like when a golfer can’t recover after an unexpected folly.

Prevent this from happening by anticipating potential mishaps that could surface during your presentation, no matter how slim. Then, mentally rehearse your solutions. Being prepared for anything surges your confidence and that translates into a less pressure-filled presentation.

Clench your left fist

A common factor that prevents individuals from giving presentations are chronic anxiety-arousing thoughts. These thoughts need to be extinguished. Very recent studies show that clenching your left fist a minute before your presentation will do the job for you. This action inhibits the language area in the left hemisphere of your brain that is responsible for these troublesome thoughts and primes the right side of your brain that is responsible for delivering a well-rehearsed skill, such as your presentation. If you are on a golf course, squeeze a ball before each shot and you will find your mind has stopped ruminating about your swing, stance and what your partner thinks of your game. Instead, you’ll just do it! Caveat: you must be right-handed for this to work. Sorry, lefties.

Walk like a champ

Neuroscientists and social psychologists have uncovered plenty of data that indicates how your posture impacts how you feel. Accordingly, experiment with different postures and you’ll note that some make you feel more confident than others. A few minutes before you enter a pressure-filled scenario, walk confidently down the hall or around your office. You’ll feel the difference.

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When the time comes to face your audience, use your confidence posture: stand up straight and expand your chest. If sitting, sit up straight –you’ll breathe easier and think more clearly. Confidence will help you to conquer pressure, so it’s smart to remember to walk like a champ.

Affirm your self worth

Step back to realize that your life is not defined by how well you give a presentation, whether you land the job, or how successful you are at work. Individuals who define their self-esteem by how well they do in any given situation allocate themselves a heavy dose of extra pressure, feeling they have to produce results 24/7. Before you go to work, and before every high pressure moment, remind yourself that you are a worthy person independent of your work performance. You’ll feel a reduction in the pressure that you feel and you’ll perform more effectively.

Follow these tips and you’ll find that you’ll be cool, calm, and collected when it matters most. You’ll enjoy your share of successes, and at the same time, take control of pressure-filled situations!

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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