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How to stay calm under pressure

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It's near mid-night. A cab is taking you to your final destination in a foreign country after a 16-hour long flight. Just when you are about to get out of the cab, one of your gas permeable contact lenses (not the disposable kind, you have only one pair) popped out of one of your tired eyes onto the darkness of a corner in the cab. The cab has lights but not enough to find such small object. You are exhausted beyond expression. The cab driver wants to be paid and rid of you. Yet, you want your contact lense back for the rest of your journey. What do you do ? Can you find your contact lense under such pressure?

The above scenarios are certainly nothing compared to the thrilling dangers faced by the main characters in action movies where they had to act and think calmly in seconds or they died of the explosive devise that were about to go off. Luckily, we normal civilians won't usually encounter such peril on the daily basis, but there are certainly plenty of opportunities that require us to stay calm under pressures big and small. The last thing we should do in that case is panic, but sometimes we just can't help it. How not to panic under pressure? Here are a few things you can try.

1. Transform pressure
It seems that the greater the pressure, the more frenzy we get. One could argue that it's relatively easy to stay calm in certain cases, but not in others. Thus comes the first thing I am proposing to do:  transform your pressure into something you can manage or simply ignore it if you can. Then you can focus on solving your problem. A tight-rope walker must have practiced walking on a tightrope just 1 meter above the ground or over a trampoline. After a while, he or she just won't think about what's beneath the rope.

2. You actually have a lot more time in your hand than comprehended,
if your pressure is due in part to a time crunch before the deadline. You can speed up significantly by reducing the idle time between tasks. Under certain circumstances, we can actually work several times faster than we normally perform in our day to day duties. You might have already noticed this.  There are often many intervals of idle or blank at the transitions of tasks. It's usually due to poor planning or grouping of various assignments. In crisis, you will need to completely eliminate these idle episodes. Envision your work flow ahead of time and do one thing right after another without having to think or move. Small time adds up. You could save 2 or 3 minutes during each transition. If there are 10 assignments, you will have saved 20-30 minutes or even longer. It's no surprise that people can finish washing up, getting dressed and eating breakfast in 10 minutes when they missed the alarm, while the same routine on other days could take an hour.

3. Embrace failure
Why do we panic? It's the fear of failing or losing the battle that's making you. Accept the reality that we might not make it this time might ease up your fear, so you can turn your attention to the right thing. You see, during that split of a second when you realize your pressure and the task, your brain is probably going through this kind of calculation:

  • I won't make it even if I try. I am dead.
  • If I don't try, I m dead.

You are dead anyway, so just calm down and get straight to business. Even if you run out of time before completing your task, you will have done some and that's better than doing nothing. This also needs to be backed by a sort of positive thinking that is the last point below. After all, the only right thing to do is the task that the pressure is all about.

4. Remove yourself from the picture
And focus on the issue. We all think too much about ourselves, so we became the hostage in the battle against pressure. The phrases "I worry", "what am I" or the mere "I" interfere with the question of "what's at stake". The concern for yourself has a conflict of interest with solving problem for the situation. The personal fear or worry often prevent us from executing logical thinking. Screaming or fretting will get us no where. They only waste time and time is something you don't have. In crisis, Imagine yourself playing a video game and just do it.

5. Positive thinking
Have you ever climbed an over 9000-feet high peak? For every step you climb, you need to feel one step closer to the top. If you dwell on how big a number is the remaining distance, you will soon get too tired to go on. It's the same for every task you do. Try to imagine a process bar in you mind that is slowly moving to the end as you wade through your tasks one step at a time. It's small, but it's moving forward, better than before you moved this step and that's an achievement.

You do need to have a special mind set to be able to stay calm and focus on your issue. A lot of people can do that and I am sure their mind went through different reasoning to come up with the resolution to do what needs to be done in a very short time. What is yours?

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