There are many reasons why staying calm in stressful situations can benefit you — both for your health and for your career.
Not only does workplace stress affect your performance and productivity, but it also affects your physical wellbeing. It’s been proven that the body releases a surge of stress hormones when it’s under pressure, and these hormones make the heart beat faster and cause the blood vessels to narrow. While there’s no proof that stress causes long-term blood pressure issues, it definitely won’t help.
In this article, we’re going to explain why it’s important to stay calm under pressure, and we’ll give you some tips on how to do it so you learn how to manage the negative thoughts, lower your stress levels and, ultimately, feel good. So, let’s dive right in.
The importance of remaining calm
Nobody likes the feeling of being stressed. But how do you manage stress when the world feels like it’s imploding around you? Here are a few reasons why it’s good to remain calm in the workplace.
1. It improves concentration
When you’re stressed, your concentration slips — it’s a natural response. However, by learning to remain calm, you’ll actually improve your concentration and get more work done. When you’re not focusing on your never-ending to-do list, or overthinking about an upcoming deadline, you’ll feel more grounded and be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
2. It boosts creativity
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s difficult to get your creative juices flowing, as you’re so caught up in what’s worrying you. When you learn to deal with your stress and remain calm, your creativity will be able to flourish, as it isn’t being drowned out by incessant over-thinking. By being in the moment, you’ll find it much easier to let loose and let your carefree side shine.
3. You’ll sleep better
If you find yourself tossing and turning when you go to bed, the chances are it’s your brain over-thinking every detail about the previous day (or the following day). When you learn how to deal with your stress, you’ll find it much easier to fall asleep, and you won’t be surviving on caffeine and sugar the next day. There are many benefits to getting a good night’s sleep, including improved productivity and decision-making.
4. It keeps your heart healthy
When you feel stressed, it has an adverse effect on the heart. It increases your heart rate, narrows your blood vessels, and causes muscle tension everywhere else. In fact, stress has been shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, so it really is important to learn how to remain calm. Your heart will thank you, and you’ll have far less health problems in the future.
5. It improves your nervous system
When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol. If your body is constantly creating cortisol, this will eventually have negative effects on the nervous system, which is responsible for controlling your reflexes, memory and concentration. If you teach yourself to remain calm and lower your stress response, you’ll produce less cortisol and will, therefore, improve the health of your nervous system in the long run.
Tips to help you stay calm under pressure
So, as you can see, there are many reasons why learning to control your stress levels and remain calm is beneficial. But how exactly do you do it? Here are a few tips to help you with the process.
1. Take deep breaths
Sometimes, stress can be released by taking a few deep breaths. It sounds simple, but it’s true. There are breathing techniques you can do to help regulate your breathing, such as the 4-7-8 technique, which was developed by Dr Andrew Weil.
For this breathing exercise, find a comfortable position. You need to inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and then release the breath and breathe out for eight seconds. Keep doing this until you feel more in control of your breathing.
2. Do some exercise
Exercise releases stress-reducing endorphins, so, when you can, squeeze some exercise into your schedule. Physical activity will help to break up your day, and you’ll head back to work feeling refreshed, full of energy and much calmer.
3. Write your worries down
A great way to ease your mind is to write down everything that is worrying you. Once you’ve written something down, you can give your mind permission to forget about it for a while — meaning, you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand instead.
4. Practice meditation
Meditating and mindfulness are a great way to clear and calm your mind during stressful periods. To meditate, you need to find a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Then, set yourself a time limit — even if it’s only 5–10 minutes — and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and focus on the intake of breath, and then on it exiting your body.
Keep doing this until the time is up. When you open your eyes, listen to the sounds around you and focus on how your body feels. What sounds, smells and sensations are you feeling? We spoke to Dr Hana Patel, Mindset Coach and GP specialist in mental health, who says: “Start by taking a few minutes each day to focus on a simple activity like breathing, walking, or enjoying a meal.”
5. Create a calming sleep routine
If you’re working from home, it’s tempting to burn the midnight oil and keep working so you don’t have as much to do the following day. But — and I can’t stress this enough — this is a bad idea. You need to make sure you have some semblance of a work–life balance. Switch off the laptop at a set time and do something to wind down, both mentally and physically. Whether that’s reading a book or soaking in a hot bath, do something that relaxes you in order to have a better night’s sleep.
In fact, research shows that just an extra 60–90 minutes of sleep a night will make you feel happier, healthier and safer. So, make sure you’re getting enough rest.
6. Eat a balanced diet
When you make good food choices, your body thanks you for it by giving you more energy. So, when you’re preparing lunch for work, try to make healthier choices. By doing this, you’re giving your body the fuel to repair itself, and boost your immune system, too. Try to go for foods rich in omega-3 and polyunsaturated fats, as these have been shown to regulate cortisol levels.
7. Find a new hobby
Sometimes, we become so caught up in our work (and the stress we’re feeling) that we forget to focus on things that bring us joy. If you’re trying to deal with your stress, look into some new hobbies that you find interesting. Maybe you like doing cross-stitch? Or perhaps you want to learn how to ice skate? By starting something new, you’ll have something to do that gives you stress relief and immediately calms you.
8. Connect with supportive people
It can feel extremely lonely when you’re stressed. You might find yourself detaching yourself from your close-knit network as you try to process what you’re dealing with. However, it’s better to confide in those closest to you so they can help you through the tough period and help you remain calm. As the saying goes: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
9. Write a to-do list
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s best to break down your to-do list into manageable chunks. As you complete something on the list, make sure to check it off so you feel a sense of accomplishment. This will help to ease your stress as you begin to feel more in control of the situation.
10. Identify your triggers
This is one of the most important tips. In order to be able to stay calm under pressure, you need to know what’s causing the pressure in the first place. Identify what it is that’s causing your stress so you can put things in place to prevent it from spiraling and causing issues later down the line.
Is it a certain situation that’s increasing your stress? An impending deadline? Or maybe it’s a difficult coworker that you’re struggling to get along with? Whatever it is, identifying the issues will make them easier to tackle.
Another way to do this is by working on improving your emotional intelligence. This involves evaluating yourself and asking for feedback from others around you so you can adapt to the circumstances more easily.
Remaining calm under pressure can be tough if you don’t know how to handle certain situations, but once you have the tools in place to combat the stress, you’ll feel more in control.
Here’s a quick recap on how to remain calm:
- Connect with friends and family: Don’t isolate yourself. Make sure you’re reaching out to your support network so they can help keep you grounded.
- Identify what distresses you: In order to remain calm, you need to identify what causes you to worry. Once you’ve done this, you can avoid these situations and remain in control.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity boosts your endorphins and makes you feel great. Adding some exercise into your routine will help you remain calm when stressful situations arise.
- Focus on your sleep routine: Make sure you’re switching off your laptop and phone, and winding down before trying to get to sleep so your body can rest and recover.
- Take deep breaths: Don’t forget to breathe. It’s amazing how altering your breathing can immediately calm you down when you’re having an anxious episode.
How do you remain calm under pressure? What do you find works best for you? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally published on July 22, 2015.