The ability to remain cool and calm under pressure builds credibility, especially when done so in a professional setting.

However, for many of us, this action is much easier said than done.  In this article, we will discuss seven tips that may help you to focus and remain calm during periods of frustration and stress allowing you to keep your cool and maintain your demeanor.

7 Tips to Focus and Remain in Control

1. Run it off.  It’s commonly known that physical activity helps to alleviate stress.  When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well.  Studies show that exercise and other physical activities are very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and enhancing overall cognitive function therefore dissipating stress.  Physical activity produces endorphins – chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers – which decreases levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep and stimulates anti-anxiety effects.

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2. Watch your [body] language.  Studies show that our body language doesn’t just reflect our emotions; it can actually affects our emotions.  Physically displaying expressions of negative emotions such as anxiety or anger acts like a feedback loop, which in turn, heightens that emotion.  Be mindful of your facial and body expressions when finding yourself in a heated negotiation or important meeting where maintaining a calm demeanor is crucial.  By raising your self-awareness about your habitual facial and body expressions, you are more likely to diffuse any negative body language when finding yourself in times of pressure.

3. Less coffee, more calm.  Caffeine triggers cortisol release – a hormone that your body releases when stressed.  Ingesting more than 500mg of caffeine a day greatly increases cortisol release causing anxiety and fueling stress.  On average a cup of brewed coffee contains 100mg of caffeine, so if your daily routine includes five or more cups of coffee, you may notice increased stress levels.

4. Write it out.  Studies show that writing down our negative thoughts or worries has a calming affect that can improve our mood and therefore impact our performance.  The act of writing our thoughts down forces us to give coherence to stressful thoughts, which not only lessens the intensity of these thoughts but also can even negate them.

5. Just breathe.  One of the most effective ways to train your body to positively adjust to stress is to learn how to breathe properly. Shallow breathing means that the diaphragm muscles are not being used.  When properly breathing, you should inhale deeply so that the chest and stomach are filled with air thus, forcing the autonomic nervous system into much more productive activity which is extremely useful in fighting the panic response caused by stress and pressure.

6. Slow down. Though difficult, don’t react immediately. It’s important to be patient and retain as much information as you can. Is it really going to matter a day, a week, or a year from now? If yes, remove yourself from the situation and view yourself as a role model, or representative of your company. With this perspective you will remain less emotional and improve your decision making.

7. Stay positive. As stressful situations arise our minds tend to go all over the place and many thoughts may be negative, anger, or violent. The longer you allow your mind to wander, the more difficult it will be to remain calm. Stop allowing yourself to go down this path, instead, shift your thoughts to something positive. Think about people you love, a funny joke, great memories, etc.