By Editorial Staff
It isn’t easy to stay calm under pressure. Too often, we psych ourselves out thinking about all the little things that could go wrong. But keeping your cool during stressful situations doesn’t have to be a struggle. Whether you’ve got an exam or an interview for your dream job coming up, here are 11 tips and tricks to keep you feeling zen on your big day.
1. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR FEARS.
Afraid you’ll forget the last line of your speech, or the most important facts on a final exam? Make a list (written or mental) of your fears and worries ahead of time, and think of possible solutions—so that even if something does go wrong, you’ll be prepared. Often, the mere act of breaking down a high-pressure situation into its component stressful parts will help you realize there’s actually less to be afraid of than you thought.
2. GET ENCOURAGEMENT FROM A LOVED ONE.
Ask a friend, family member, or significant other for some positive encouragement. A recent study found that people who had loved ones describe a time when they were at their best, just before facing a challenge, had improved problem-solving skills. Being reminded of our “best selves” can help us feel more confident and perform better in the moment.
3. PRACTICE AHEAD OF TIME.
Feeling prepared is one of the best ways to stave off anxiety. While practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it will make you more confident in the moment. To ensure you get the most out of practicing, however, make sure to practice deliberately. A groundbreaking 1993 cognitive psychology study found that just putting in hours of effort isn’t enough to master a skill—targeting and addressing your weaknesses is just as, if not more, important than spending a long time practicing. For example, if you’re rehearsing a big speech, don’t just memorize what you’re going to say. Thinking about—and practicing—performance elements like intonation, eye contact, the emphases you’ll put on different words, even the specific way you plan to hold the microphone, will help calm your nerves and make you feel like a master of public speaking.
4. DON’T OVERTHINK IT.
Sometimes, even after you’ve practiced something to perfection, when it comes time to perform you can get in your own way by overthinking. Try to clear your mind, and trust yourself. Banishing distractions can help you enter what sports psychologists call a “flow state”: a heightened state of calm concentration that helps athletes stay in the moment and remain relaxed. “Flow states” are said to transcend conscious thought, and, though the term is most often applied to professional athletes, can be experienced by anyone who’s fully absorbed in what they’re doing.
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