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7 Tips to Relax Before A High Stress Situation That I Learned From Poker

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Boardroom meetings, a marriage proposal, work or university presentations, meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time – there are many situations that can put you under a lot of stress. And it’s hard to tell yourself to calm down when you are under too much pressure and your body is coursing with adrenaline and cortisol.

But as I’ve learned from playing poker – where big tournaments can put you through a significant amount of stress – there are several things that you do to relax.

Here are a few poker relaxation tips that I’ve also found apply to any stressful situation.

1. Concentrate On Your Breathing

Considering how many hands one plays in a poker tournament, you can’t take a 10-minute walk to clear your head during every tough decision. A faster way to ease your mind is to take 3-5 deep breaths before a difficult situation. This simple technique is very effective at bringing your mind to the present.

2. Know What Makes You Tilt

Tilt is a mental state where poker players make poor strategic decisions out of frustration. The same thing can happen at your job or on a date when enough things go wrong. The best way to avoid these situations is to look for early warning signs that you’re about to tilt. Do you lose focus beforehand? Does a coworker set you off?

Find out what causes your tilt and calm yourself before it happens. It also helps to know yourself well. Regarding poker, I found that this poker quiz helped me find myself.

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3. Power Poses

Famed speaker and psychologist Amy Cuddy suggests that you can change your confidence level by making yourself larger and taking up more space for a few moments (A.K.A. power poses). One example is the Wonder Woman pose, where you put your hands on your hips. This is effective for poker, business meetings, or any other matter where feeling powerful and confident will improve your performance.

4. Use Positive Affirmations

Along with power poses, you can also recite affirmations that fill you with confidence. Here are a few examples:

  • “I deserve success and will make it happen.”
  • “I am prepared and ready to have a great day.”
  • “Today is just another day on my path to success.”

It’s best if you recite these affirmations on a daily basis, rather than waiting until the day of a stressful event.

5. Get Your Sleep

A poker tournament can be a lengthy affair that lasts for several days. And if you don’t get proper sleep, your body and mind will be taxed to the point where you’re willing to give up. Getting at least seven hours of sleep a night ensures that your concentration will be better and you’ll feel more ready to tackle difficult tasks.

6. Be Well-Prepared

One of the biggest sources of anxiety is when you haven’t properly prepared. I know this because I began playing tournaments before studying enough poker strategy. But when you put enough time into preparing for a poker tournament or any big event, you’ll feel calmer beforehand. Here’s a tip: aim to prepare enough so that you can relax on the day of your stressful event.

7. Willing To Fail

Fear of failure is one of the biggest sources of stress for many people. But any time you take a risk that can lead to a positive outcome, you also stand the chance of failure. Poker especially fits into this category because even the best players have bad sessions due to the luck element involved. Once you realise that failing is a necessary part of finding success, then you’ll feel more apt in stressful situations.

Featured photo credit: Jorund Myhre via flickr.com

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