How many times have you uttered the phrase “I’m so stressed” in your life? For some people, it’s so often that it’s become synonymous to “Hello”. Below, we’ve put together 10 tips on how to stay calm in stressful situations, so read on!
We all have our own stories on how much stress has negatively impacted our day-to-day lives. We often attribute small failures such as missed deadlines, inattention or plain fatigue to the stress we’re experiencing, whether it’s coming from our personal or professional lives.
It’s not a far-fetched conclusion as several studies have shown the alarming effects stress can have on our mental and physical health. A study from Yale University found out that prolonged stress can degeneration of the area in the brain that is responsible for self-control. Stress has also been found to possibly increase your risk of heart disease, depression, and even obesity.
Stress isn’t always bad, as long as you’re able to manage it.
Elizabeth Kirby, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, led a research that found some interesting things about stress. The study showed that during the onset of stress, our brains are enticed to grow new cells and results in improved memory. Stress can bring you positive effects, as long as it’s intermittent. When stress becomes a prolonged state, that’s when it becomes unhealthy and can even suppress our brain’s ability to develop new cells. Follow through below for ways to learn how to stay calm in stressful situations.
Dr. Kirby posts that…
Intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert. Click To Tweet
Intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert.
How To Stay Calm In Stressful Situations
So how can we make sure that our stress levels are at an intermittent state, wherein we can use it to stay alert, but not be prolonged so that it essentially knocks us down and keeps us from being productive?
The thing about stress is that, unless you’re in a life or death situation, you have the ability to control it. Top performers in the workplace show great coping mechanisms when stress hits them, allowing them to stay calm, alert and productive even in high stress situations.
Here are ten useful tips on how to stay calm in stressful situations so you’re always performing at your best:
- Think Positive: This seems like an obvious solution but a lot of people forget about it when the going gets tough. It’s easy to stay positive when everything is going well, not so much when everything seems like it’s falling apart. But thinking positive allows your brain to latch onto a thought that doesn’t remind you of your stressful surroundings and keeps your stress-levels in check. When you start feeling overwhelmed by everything around you, take a moment to sit down and reflect on one positive event, no matter how big or small, that happened. Focus on the one thing that went right. Maybe you had a nice lunch or your favorite show got renewed? If you can’t think of anything right that happened that day, go back a day or two or even a week ago. If not, try to look forward to something positive instead, like perhaps you’ll be taking a vacation in a month or having drinks with friends at the end of the day. One positive thought is all you need to keep your stress at an intermittent state.
- Don’t Be Caught Up in What Can Happen: Asking yourself what else can go wrong can only lead you to a downward spiral of prolonged stress. Don’t get bogged down by situations that haven’t even happened yet, or maybe won’t even happen at all. Instead, focus on what solutions you can apply to problem you have at hand to keep you calm and manage your stress levels. Pondering on what can happen only wastes your time and doesn’t contribute to moving forward. This is probably my favorite tip on how to stay calm in stressful situations.
- Be Thankful for What You Have: Contemplating on the things you should be thankful for isn’t just some new age tip, it’s backed up by science. Internalizing what you should be grateful for in life can improve your mood and cortisol, which is the stress hormone, can go down by as much as 23 percent. In fact, a research conducted by the University of California discovered that people who make it a daily habit to take time to think about what they’re grateful for in life has also noticed that their moods have been on the upswing, and they have more energy.
- Go Offline: The advancement of technology has changed the way we worked and lived. On the upside, it’s so much easier and faster to communicate and get things done. On the downside, it’s also so much easier and faster for stressful situations to reach you, at any time of the day and wherever you may be. Take a break from the stressors in your life by physically cutting it off at the source. Turn your phone off or disable your email notifications at night or during the weekend so you won’t be distracted by stressful situations. Even if something doesn’t need attention until the next day, just seeing it will already lead your brain to focus on that one problem. Don’t let yourself think about it when you don’t have to and just go offline.
Of course every work environment is different. There are professions wherein we feel we have to be constantly connected. But a little breather can be more beneficial in the long run and lead to you being more alert, more productive, and more efficient. If you feel uncomfortable, the key to learning how to stay calm in stressful situations is to start small. This could mean going offline maybe one or two nights a week or just on days when you’re least likely to be contacted, like your days off.
While you’re training yourself to be comfortable going offline, you’re also gradually letting your co-workers know your limits when it comes to entertaining work away from work.
- Look at the Situation from a Different Angle: There are many instances when the problem isn’t as big as we make it out to be. We get worked up by our own stress and automatically conclude that the situation is too difficult or nothing is going right, and in the end exacerbate the stress we’re feeling. Stop and look at things from a different angle. If you need to, take time to write down what problems need to be addressed and you’ll often discover that it’s not as bad as you think. Knowing the limits of the situation also allows you to keep your stress levels at a minimum.
- Don’t Go Nuts on the Coffee: We often drink a lot of coffee while working under the impression that it will keep us more alert and awake. But drinking too much coffee can put you at a hyper-aroused state of stress. Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, which entices a flight or fight response. Answering a not-so-friendly email can feel like a battle as your emotions are on high, and instead of just letting it go and keeping things professional, you end up carrying it with you throughout the day. Caffeine also doesn’t leave your body for a long time, and can keep stress in a prolonged state.
- Don’t Put Yourself Down: It’s hard to control the negative thoughts running through our head but always remind yourself that these are just thoughts and they’re not real. When you find your brain being overtaken by pessimistic thoughts, and you start believing it, take a moment to write them down on paper. This will, for one, derail your negative train of thinking. And seeing it on paper allows you to look at it more rationally and with a clearer head so you can look at things more objectively.
If looking at it on paper doesn’t shake away your pessimistic feelings, seek out a trusted colleague or even friend who can help you work out these thoughts and help you feel better about yourself.
- Try Breathing Exercises: You can keep stress from going to a prolonged state by interrupting it with breathing exercises. Shut the door to your office or go outside, close your eyes and just take a minute or two to focus on your breathing, in and out, and how it feels on your lungs. This will allow you to keep stress at bay instead of constantly barraging your thoughts.
Taking a minute or two to just focus on breathing and forgetting about all other worries around you lets you stay calm even when you’re in a highly stressful situation and you can go back in to work with renewed vigor and a clearer mind. Again, these are easy wins when one is learning how to stay calm in stressful situations.
- Don’t Forego Sleep: Sleep is extremely important for our health. During sleep, your brain recharges itself and you wake up refreshed, alert and with a clearer head. Not sleeping enough is a stressor in itself. There are times when we think that pulling out an all-nighter is the only way we can accomplish work or meet deadlines, but a lack of sleep can actually be counter-productive. Without enough sleep, attention and memory are affected and we’re not working at our optimal best. It would be better to take a night’s rest and tackle work in the morning when your brain is recharged and at its prime.
- Learn to Depend on Others: You often hear the phrase, “No man is an island.” That’s especially true if you want to manage your stress levels. Keeping all the work or all your problems to yourself will only keep your stress at a constant high level. At work, it’s good to realize your own weaknesses or recognize other people’s strength so you can delegate and spread responsibility. A collaborative effort can not only result in a better outcome, but also keep our stress at a manageable level. Simply knowing you’re not alone at resolving an issue or accomplishing a task keeps you from feeling overwhelmed because you know there are others you can depend on. Even just talking to someone else about problems or worries that are bothering you can help you flush away the feeling of anxiety and stress, and maybe other people can even help you come up with a great solution to resolve your issues.
Do you have tips to add on how to stay calm in stressful situations? If so, drop them in the comments below.