Staying calm under pressure

Work life, Career advice

Staying calm when you start to feel the pressure is harder than it sounds. When you feel your stress levels rising and panic beginning to settle in, it can often feel like there's nothing you can do to stop it. It can feel overwhelming, and leave you wanting to throw your hands up in the air, scream, and demand that your office is taken to def-con four.

It's instinct, and we've all been there but though it might seem like the natural emotional response, it's not necessarily the most practical one. And yes, we're speaking from experience! It doesn't always happen at once either, stress and panic can build up and up over time until you feel like you're at breaking point. This isn't a healthy way to work, let alone live, so we've put our heads and experience together to come up with our best and most practical tips on how to stay calm when you feel the pressure rising.

1. Think happy thoughts

One of the things that we can do as soon as stress starts to take over is simply think about something else. It might sound a little absurd, but we can stop stressful thoughts and anxiety simply by breathing deeply, and thinking about something that doesn't cause us knee trembling anxiety. This will calm you down and let you think more rationally about whatever problem you're facing. If you find it helpful, you can also use meditation to stop your mind from racing and clear your thoughts.

2. What's the worst that can happen?

It might sound sarcastic and like something that Chandler from Friends might have quipped followed by a trademark eyebrow raise and nonchalant shrug, but playing this game with yourself can actually work. One of the trademarks of growing panic is raising the stakes in your head to escalating consequences (which often aren't true.) Ask yourself what's the worst thing that can happen? Often, it's as simple as asking for help or admitting that you've made a mistake. We can build these things up in our heads to massive proportions, or we can sit back and think about a practical response. Once you've broken past this barrier, things are never as bad as they seem.

3. Take yourself out of the situation

Our working environments aren't always optimised to keep you calm. They're designed to keep us productive, and if you can feel the panic rising then it isn't always the best place for you to be. Walk away from your desk, go and make a hot drink or get five minutes of fresh air. Often just moving about and getting a change of scenery will help you calm down and put your panic into perspective.

4. Talk to someone

The worst thing to do when you're under pressure is to keep everything bottled up inside. Things always seem worse when you feel like you're on your own with a gargantuan task ahead of you. If you start to feel like your workload is too much or is overwhelming, then it's time to sit down with your boss and talk through what's leaving you stressed. They'll be able to provide help if you need it, and help you organise your work. By sharing your concerns, you'll also mark yourself out as responsible and conscientious - no bad thing!

5. Prioritise

Sometimes you'll feel the pressure just because it seems like there's too much to do, and you can't possibly get though all of it. In this scenario, the best thing to do is to rank your tasks, putting the most important at the top and the least important at the bottom. Once you've done that, calculate how long it will take you to complete each task (be realistic!) and see if it's achievable. If it is, then you've got a schedule and you know that your work will all be completed in time. If it's not, then you can have an informed discussion with your boss and talk over the tasks you can hand over to a colleague, or delay.

It's never easy to stay calm in the face of rising pressure, but its a skill you need in a modern and often frantic workplace. Got any tips you'd like to share? Tweet us @BrookstreetUK