How to Stay Calm Under Pressure?

Something important is about to happen. Your big moment is coming but suddenly you are super nervous and can’t remain calm. All of us have witnessed someone choke under pressure whether it’s a star athlete missing a crucial penalty shot in the clutch or an actor messing up their lines live. In fact, we all probably felt pressured in some situations which prevented us from performing at our best. That situation could have been a job interview, an important test, trying to impress your first date, or maybe even a close game. I know how it feels to not be able to be at your best due to the pressure. Now how to stay calm under pressure?

How to Stay Calm Under Pressure
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So this article will go over why people panic under pressure and what you can do to stay calm under pressure. The main reason why people mess up and panic under pressure is the focus. There are 2 groups of theories regarding this idea. 

The first one is made up of distraction theories. It suggests that performance suffers when the mind is preoccupied with worry and doubt instead of focusing on the task at hand. Your brain can only process so much information at once and something has to give. Most of us have experienced something similar to this in a low-pressure situation as well. If you ever tried working on something while thinking about something else, you might find it really hard to focus. If it was hard focusing during a low-pressure situation, think about how much harder it would be to focus in a high-pressure situation. 

The second group is made up of explicit monitoring theoriesThese theories focus on how pressure can cause people to overanalyze the task at hand. The theory states that once a task becomes automatic, thinking about its precise mechanics interferes with your ability to do it. There’s a study that looked at the performance of competitive golfers when putting. Putting is a skill they perform so regularly they don’t have to think about doing it. The study found that when they were told to consider the detailed mechanics of their putting stroke, the golfers performed worse than when they were simply instructed to hit the ball accurately. You might have experienced this when you have practiced for something until you got things right. For example, in an interview, people often have prepared answers for questions they might get asked. Once you start overthinking about whether your prepared answer is good enough you might start fumbling and mess up. Everyone gets nervous before a big event but there are things you can do to make sure you are at your best once it’s time. 

How to Stay Calm Under Pressure
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First, it helps a lot to practice under stressful conditions. If you have a high stakes event coming up, you want to get comfortable with pressure and learn to work through it instead of thinking you will mess up. For example, if you have a presentation coming up, you can first practice alone without anyone watching. Once you get comfortable with that, you can start practicing with a couple of friends or family watching. Another example would be if you have a big exam coming up. Instead of casually looking through the practice exam and doing some problems, time yourself doing the practice exam. With enough practice, you will know how to navigate through a stressful situation and remain calm since you experienced it before. Second, you want to have a pre-performance routine. One of my favorite examples of this is Lebron’s chalk toss routine where he throws some chalk dust-up before the basketball game starts. Having a pre-performance routine tells your mind it’s time to act a certain way and give it your all. Spending your last few minutes before the big event doing your routine can prevent you from worrying and overthinking. If a routine isn’t for you, you can also wear a certain piece of clothing that is important for you to get the same effect. 

Also Read: 3 Public Speaking Habits of Public Speaking Expert

A good example is Michael Jordan who always wore his old University of North Carolina shorts underneath his Bulls uniform during his NBA career. Finally, have an external focus on the goal rather than an internal focus. When you have an internal focus on your mechanics, you tend to perform worse than when you focus on the goal. This step helps deal with both focus theories. When you focus on the goal, you will be focused on the goal and completing it. Remember, your mind can only process so much information at once so if you are focused on the goal, you won’t be focused on your other thoughts and you can stop overthinking. Also, when you focus on your mechanics, you will overthink and stop yourself from being 100%. It’s better to focus on something that isn’t your negative thoughts or your mechanics to get the best results. While these steps are very helpful, some people are more prone to messing up under pressure. Research has shown that those who are self-conscious and afraid of being judged by others are more likely to mess up under pressure. If you fall into that category, you can be calmer and perform under pressure better by learning how to be less self-conscious and stop worrying about what other people think. There are some good articles about those topics so I am not going to cover how to be less self-conscious and stop worrying about what other people think. 

Remember, if you mess up under pressure, it’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself back up and do better next time. If you are lucky enough, you might have a chance to redeem yourself during the same event. What do you do when you are under pressure? Leave a comment below and check out the other articles under lifestyle, if you liked this article and want more. 

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