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10 Tricks Successful People Use to Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

10 Tricks Successful People Use to Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

From CEOs to firefighters to fighter-jet pilots, the ability to stay calm in a difficult situation can mean the difference between success and failure. Research has shown that the mind works best when it is in a moderate state of arousal (not too stressed, but not too calm either). So how do successful people stay cool under pressure?

1. They remain positive. 

Having a negative attitude about the challenges you face is a great way to snowball into feeling overwhelmed. Look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and tough assignments as chances to show the world (and especially your boss) what you are made of. Be confident in your ability to slay whatever dragon lies ahead.

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2. They avoid caffeine.

The last thing you need when you have a lot on your plate is too much caffeine in your system. Caffeine will only further stimulate the areas of your brain that are causing you to feel overwhelmed in the first place. Opt for water instead.

Pascal Lego
    Pascal via flickr

    3. They make jokes.

    If you ever find yourself on a deck of an aircraft carrier, you are likely to hear pilots ripping on each other and joking around about the imminent danger they face on a daily basis. It isn’t that they don’t feel fear; it is that they manage it through humor. Laughter releases hormones that calm you down and allow you to be in control.

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    4. They identify the stressor. 

    Zeroing in on what exactly is making you feel stressed out is the first step in overcoming those feelings. Being able to identify the enemy allows you to figure out what its weaknesses are and which of your strengths are most likely to be useful in any given situation. Just like with a child who is afraid of the dark, things are never as scary when you fully understand them.

    5. They decompress.

    Taking time to step back from a situation and relax can help you reorient your thoughts and view things more clearly. Take a walk, read a book, or watch a movie. Just do something to take your mind off the situation that is getting you worked up. You will be much more effective at problem solving once you have taken time to rejuvenate your mind.

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    6. They reframe the situation. 

    Once you have taken the time to decompress, you may have a completely different perspective on a difficult situation. Embrace new ways of thinking and view problems from all sides. You may realize you were, in fact, trying to climb up the mountain’s sheer cliff face rather than the smoothly winding trail on the opposite side.

    Nomadic Lass planning
      Nomadic Lass via flickr

      7. They make a plan.

      Once you fully understand what you are up against, you can develop a step by step plan to get you to your goal. One tactic successful people use is back-casting, where they think about the final objective they are working towards and identify each step they need to reach on the way to achieving it. From there it is easy to determine when each step needs to be completed to stay on track. Nothing helps you stay calm like a clear plan of attack.

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      8. They get some sleep.

      Just because you have deadlines to meet and people to impress doesn’t mean that you can sacrifice sleep to get there. Not only will losing sleep damage your health, it will make you generally less effective. A tired mind is one that is not able to think clearly and it is hard to stay calm when you are living in a mental fog. We can only learn and adapt when we are rested.

      9. They ask for help.

      Being afraid to ask for help is a sure-fire way to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is bad enough without making yourself feel alone as well. Take advantage of the people in your network who have skills and knowledge that you don’t. More often than not, people are happy to help in any way they can. Feeling like someone has your back is a great way to stay calm.

      oatsy40 relax
        oatsy40 via flickr

        10. They mentally prepare.

        Before projects even begin, successful people train their brains to stay calm when the pressure is on. It comes naturally with experience, but you can consciously work at it too. Play games that encourage mental flexibility under a time limit. The Internet is full of puzzles and games that can help keep your brain in tip-top shape and ready for the next challenge.

        Featured photo credit: Maria Ly via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on June 18, 2019

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

        No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

        Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

        Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

        A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

        Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

        In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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        From Making Reminders to Building Habits

        A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

        For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

        This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

        The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

        That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

        Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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        The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

        Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

        But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

        The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

        The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

        A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

        For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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        But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

        If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

        For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

        These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

        For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

        How to Make a Reminder Works for You

        Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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        Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

        Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

        My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

        Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

        I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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