We all know the type:
While the rest of us are panicking and worrying our heads off, there’s always that one person who is calm, collected and in control.
How do they do it?
Here are the most important habits of people who always stay calm under pressure.
1) Caring for themselves
If you’ve ever tried to face a stressful situation and pressure after a night of barely sleeping, then you know how important self-care is.
That’s why the first of the habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is caring for themselves.
This means getting enough sleeping, hydrating, eating well and not voluntarily taking on more than they can handle.
It means keeping a schedule and only signing on to new duties if and when they have time and energy to do so.
The first common mistake most people make is that they overextend themselves and don’t take self-care seriously.
This is a big error and leads to burnout, frustration and feeling overwhelmed.
2) Having allies onboard
The next key habit of calm people is to stay in touch with people.
When times get stressful you can try to deal with it all yourself or you can call up and contact those who might have a unique perspective.
The calm individual gets to know people and stay in touch with people from a variety of professions and backgrounds.
When the stress and pressure piles up, the calm person keeps their jitters under control by having allies onboard.
In business, this may mean having a trusted advisor or business partner…
In relationships, it could be a skilled and insightful counselor…
In personal health and wellbeing it could be a superb fitness trainer and nutritionist they can call up.
Having people on your side is a great way to alleviate some of the stress.
3) Facing the present reality
Be honest about this:
What do most of us do when times get stressful and upsetting?
We catastrophize about the future or ruminate on the past.
We escape from the present moment by trying to speculate about what will happen next or focus on what did or did not happen in the past.
The spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle refers to this as “psychological time.”
The past certainly existed and if we’re alive the future will certainly exist. But they’re not happening right now.
In fact, Tolle teaches that now is ultimately all there is, since the past was once now and the future will one day be now.
Our control, therefore, lies not in the past or the future but in the present moment. This is the first crucial habit of people who always stay calm under pressure: facing the present reality without focusing on what did happen or what might happen.
4) Practicing meditation
Another of the important habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is practicing meditation.
This can sound a bit intimidating or vague if you haven’t meditated before or wonder about the different methods.
But meditation can actually be quite simple and won’t even take much time out of your day.
A good place to start is a simple breathing meditation where you breathe in through your nose counting to three inside your head and then exhale through your mouth counting to six.
Follow your breath and focus on it.
Think about this as you trying to put as much conscious care into breathing and imagine it’s your only job on earth to breathe well.
This is your job and your purpose here. Breathe and breathe well.
Thoughts and emotions will come and go. They may be stressful, funny, bored or random.
Let them come and go. You can’t stop yourself from thinking and feeling, nor should you.
But you can allow that space to grow between you and your thoughts and emotions. They are part of you, certainly but they are not you.
You are you.
Meditation will help you decompress and be more prepared for intense stress because it allows you to regain a point of control and focus.
5) Effective compartmentalization
The next of the habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is practicing effective compartmentalization.
Instead of allowing pressure and obligations to overwhelm them, the calm person divides them up into categories.
Life’s hard, work’s rough, finances are in the toilet, health is a struggle and the relationship is on the rocks!
OK, let’s compartmentalize this and try to face one category at a time.
Nobody can face a mountain of problems all at the same time. For one thing you’ll never be quite sure where to focus.
Think of it this way:
It would be better to completely resolve one issue than to half resolve five problems.
Because even if you reduce the stress from five problems, you’ll still have them lurking on the periphery and not be done with them, whereas if you completely resolve one you now can set it aside and move on to what else is bothering you.
6) Sidestep black and white thinking
The next of the habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is that they dodge black and white thinking.
This is a very common practice that people often engage in without even realizing it:
“If I don’t get this job it’s the end of my career…”
“If my boyfriend breaks up with me I’ll never find love again…”
“If I can just move to this new place then everything will be perfect like I imagined.”
Black and white thinking misleads us into reaching unfounded and overly negative or positive speculations that end up leading to great disappointment and wasting of energy.
Even if a situation does turn out very well or very badly, speculating on it in this way disempowers you and gets you stuck in daydreams instead of reality.
That’s why when the pressure is high, calm people avoid trying to draw too many speculative conclusions about what will happen and they avoid the either / or mentality.
This brings me to the next point…
7) Rejecting false control
Secondly in terms of the habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is that they scrap false control.
The previous habit of imagining the future or focusing on the past is a form of false control.
If X happened in the past it will probably happen again!
If X might happen in the future then I should do this now, or not do this now!
The calm individual knows that focusing on what might happen or did happen won’t change the present moment, especially if they are in a crisis or emergency.
They know that a lot of pressure on them means facing reality and letting go of common false control mechanisms.
This also means:
- No playing the victim
- No surrender to pessimism or optimism
- No over-analysis
- No recklessness
So what are we left with?
8) Dealing with pressure rationally
Pressure can hit us in many ways. It may be from people, situations, emotional reactions or even physical constraints.
But dealing with pressure rationally means the habit of checking what you can actually do in the present moment.
Say you are dealing with immense stress to study for an exam. You are in medical school and there are mountains of facts and case studies you simply must memorize ahead of the test.
The test is coming up fast and you’re feeling worse and worse. You are sure you’ll fail.
What would a person do to stay calm in this situation?
They would answer the following two questions:
What is really happening right now?
What can I do about it in this moment?
In the above scenario:
What is really happening right now?
Answer: I am very stressed about my upcoming exam in medical school. I do still have four days to study, however, and I am also extremely exhausted and feel unable to study more tonight.
What can I do about it in this moment?
Answer: I can push myself to study more by taking another caffeine pill and drinking more Monster or I can go to sleep and get up early to study more so that I am more well-rested.
I could also scream into my pillow to alleviate some frustration or call my friend to see what she is doing to help study most effectively.
The point is: the situation sometimes is not as drastic or urgent as first though, and we often have more options of what to do about it than our initial reaction.
People who respond calmly to pressure do so by being realistic and rational about the situation they’re in.
This ties into the next point…
9) Influencing what you can
There are some stressful and pressure-full situations that will fall somewhat under a person’s influence.
The calm person faces them, deals with them rationally, and avoids false control and black and white thinking.
But they will try to influence what they can.
For example, if they have a large debt but can avoid worse interest payments by paying a portion now, they will do so even if this means not going out for dinner this month.
Alleviating the pressure when possible is always a good idea.
10) Don’t take it personally
We all face moments of intense pressure when life, people, and situations are pressing down on us.
Sometimes we put too much on our plate, other times we have been mistreated, manipulated, or suffered accidents, illnesses, and unfair circumstances.
It’s important to try to avoid taking your circumstances personally as much as possible.
To be fair, some things are personal and can’t help but be, such as being rejected by a romantic partner.
But one of the top habits of people who always stay calm under pressure is that they try to deal with pressure and stress as rationally as possible.
Even if they’re feeling very stressed and frazzled they do their best not to take it as a personal attack or being singled out by the universe for punishment.
Sometimes knowing your stress isn’t unique to you and that you’re not alone in your frustration is a comforting realization.
Staying calm under pressure
You can’t always force yourself to stay completely calm under pressure.
Sometimes nerves are natural and even justified.
But by following the above habits you’re much more likely to respond to pressure without panicking and rebound more quickly from stressful situations.