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5 Foolproof Methods to Stay Calm Under Pressure

how to stay calm under pressure
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / JESHOOTS-com

Knowing how to stay calm under pressure is an essential skill for success. Here are some tried-and-tested techniques to cope if you find yourself overwhelmed.

What is it about pressure that makes your heart race, your head spin, and your eyes lock onto the ticking clock? For many people, the answer is stress. For others, it’s a mix of both. Do you know how to stay calm under pressure?

Understanding how to stay calm under pressure can be a valuable life skill. Keeping cool when things go wrong can help you succeed in business and life. What can you do about it? Let’s discuss a few strategies that can help you down the road.

1) Stay Calm Under Pressure: Remember Your Ultimate Goal

Motivation is often what pulls us through difficult times.
Motivation is often what pulls us through difficult times. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Alexas_Fotos)

We all experience the stress of pressure at some point in our lives, whether it’s work-related or in our personal lives. But what separates the people who excel in these conditions from those who don’t?

One answer comes from recent research on the nature of motivation and performance. After all, our motivations are key when we think about staying calm under pressure.

The research draws on a theory called self-determinism (SDT). SDT explains that people with the competence and drive to achieve their goals are more likely to succeed in the long term. There are two types of thinking when it comes to self-motivation:

  • Controlled motivation: when we feel like what we do is out of our control — we have to do it because it is imposed on us.
  • Autonomous motivation: when we believe that what we do will help us reach a personal goal.

Of course, sometimes we have to do things that are necessary, but outside of our control. But shifting our perspective on these tasks and aligning them with our personal goals can provide that extra boost of motivation.

2) Break Down Your Tasks Effectively

How to stay calm under pressure? Make large tasks seem small by breaking them up.
How to stay calm under pressure? Make large tasks seem small by breaking them up. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Hermann)

On the topic of motivation, dopamine is one of the main factors influencing how the brain helps or restricts motivation to get things done. Dopamine, the pathway to the brain’s reward center, lets us feel pleasure and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, the brain can withdraw dopamine, creating feelings of aversion, displeasure and stress when faced with tasks you don’t want to do. Simply put, our brains condition us to seek pleasure and avoid pain. This factors firmly into how we handle staying calm under pressure. When tasks seem impossible, the brain withdraws dopamine to signal that we should avoid the task. That, in turn, dampens motivation and can leave us feeling drained.

However, by breaking tasks into smaller, more achievable targets, we trick the brain into thinking we will be rewarded sooner. Then, it releases dopamine to help keep us motivated. Studies show that when a task seems doable, the brain proceeds as though we’ll reach our goals sooner and stimulates us to reach that goal.

So, by breaking down tasks, we release pressure and experience a small neurological reward.

3) Stay Calm Under Pressure: Tackle the Worst — First

If you have to eat the frog, eat the worst first.
If you have to eat the frog, eat the worst first. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Alexas_Fotos)

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

As the old saying indicates, when you have a task to do, start in the morning and finish it earlier. And, when you have more than one thing to accomplish, get through the worst one first. This mentality can help us get things done faster, especially when we’re under pressure and deciding where to start.

According to the research, how we order tasks affects how well we do them, impacting factors like:

  • the time it takes to complete all tasks
  • how confident we are in getting jobs done
  • our overall performance

Although some prefer to take on the easiest job first, when we prioritize more difficult work we actually get more done. According to the research, this is likely because everything else seems easier once the hardest task is over.

4) Take Care of Your Health

Being mindful of our health should always be our first priority.
Being mindful of our health should always be our first priority. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / lograstudio)

An often overlooked element of how to stay calm under pressure is health. It’s easy to forget to care for ourselves when we have a lot going on. We may that prioritizing work will help us feel better. However, that approach actually counteracts productivity.

In fact, our overall performance and effectiveness decrease when we neglect our health. Conversely, there is evidence that when we take time to look after ourselves — for example, by eating healthily and exercising — we perform better personally and professionally.

Likewise, when we’re physically and mentally healthy we’re also better equipped to deal with pressure.

5) Stay Calm Under Pressure: Don’t Overthink it

How to stay calm under pressure: don't allow tackling anxiety to become another problem on your to-do-list.
How to stay calm under pressure: don’t allow tackling anxiety to become another problem on your to-do-list. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / lukasbieri)

Counterintuitively, thinking about how to stay calm under pressure can make us perform worse and feel more stressed out. When we focus on the pressure, heavy workloads and the anxiety we feel, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more we dwell on negative thoughts and worry about how we can possibly get things done, the less likely we are to succeed. Those who are skilled at managing these thoughts perform better under pressure. When irrational beliefs and concerns about pressure pop up, you should focus on:

  • taking deep, steady breaths
  • replacing negative thoughts by reminding yourself of the positives
  • honing in on your long-term goals

It’s also useful to lean on your support system and talk things through — it can help you organize your thoughts.


Sometimes things simply build up — in many ways, the pressure of life is unavoidable. However, our day-to-day lives become simpler and easier when we learn how to stay calm under pressure and apply tried and tested rules to tackle tasks.

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