How to Find Composure During a Stressful Situation

on August 22, 2019 • Grace

Author James Allen said, “The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”

If you’re facing a challenge or taking a risk, you may be experiencing more stressful situations than usual. But remember: The people who have achieved success were able to do so not because they didn’t experience stressful situations during their challenges, but because they found composure during these situations. 

In fact, according to research by TalentSmart, 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions and remaining calm during times of stress. 

This may be because finding a sense of composure during a stressful situation helps you develop a mindset of psychological readiness. This will help you feel more confident and self-assured when you are tackling your challenges — no matter how stressful they may be. 

In order to find your composure during times of stress, and, therefore, achieve success, try these five simple techniques next time you’re facing a challenge. 

1. Use Mindfulness to Reframe the Situation

The first step to finding composure during a stressful situation is to become more mindful of your thoughts and reactions. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and redirecting your thoughts away from the stress and worry and toward a sense of calm. 

In order to be mindful about your situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What typically causes me to become stressed?
  • How does this stress affect me emotionally and physically?
  • How do I usually respond to a stressful situation?
  • Why do I respond this way?
  • Does my response help or hurt me?
  • Am I interpreting the situation correctly?
  • What is my desired outcome in this situation, and what is preventing me from achieving that?
  • What is not relevant to that outcome in this situation?
  • What is most relevant to that outcome in this situation?

Answering these honestly will give you more control over your thoughts and emotions. Once you objectively and rationally understand what is causing your stress and how you are reacting to it, you can begin to reframe the situation. 

Try to pick one positive thought or action that you have control over to focus on, either in this situation or in your overall challenge. As you think about this with a clear head, your mind will automatically start to reframe your stressful situation in a more optimistic and controlled way. You will no longer be a victim of your circumstances, but a victor of your reality. 

2. Swap Negative Self-Talk for Empowering Language

During a stressful situation, your language will either calm you down, or cause you to spiral into deeper panic. This is another way of becoming more mindful about your thoughts and reactions when feelings of stress emerge.  

Avoid falling down the rabbit hole of “What if?” thoughts. These will only fuel your stress, leaving you stuck worrying about the possibilities rather than taking action and finding a solution.

Also avoid:

  • Placing blame, either on yourself or on an external subject
  • Over-analysing or over-dramatising the situation 
  • Taking a mistake or fall-back personally

Instead, use empowering, positive language in order to find your composure and regain your control over the situation. 

Use action phrases, such as:

  • I am in control. 
  • I am calm. 
  • I can handle this. 

You can also use metaphors, such as:

  • What if my problem was a tiny ant, rather than a giant mountain?
  • What if my problem was soft, moldable clay, rather than stiff metal?

3. Utilise the Power of Visualisation

Visualisation has the power to ground you during times of uncertainty, making it a great way to reframe your stress into composure. In fact, visualisation is often used in athletic training because of its positive effect on mental toughness. 

There are two different types of visualisation you can try. No matter which one you choose, first find a quiet place away from your stressful situation. Sit or lie down, and turn on calming music. 

Type 1: Start by imagining a tranquil place — somewhere that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed, such as an empty beach or a warm bubble bath. Explore this place for five to ten minutes, paying attention to every aspect of it that makes you feel safe and calm. 

This should help you regain composure and control, so you can go back into your stressful situation with a clearer mind. 

Type 2: Start by thinking about the situation that is causing you stress. Imagine every possible outcome, then visualise and feel your reaction to each. Next, reenact your reaction to be calmer and more controlled. Play and feel out how this reaction can lead to a better outcome. 

This should help you maintain composure in the case of any possible outcome, and also improve your self-belief system. 

4. Take Care of Your Body

As I’ve stated before, facing a challenge requires both mental and physical strength. That means that in addition to training your mind to cope with stress, you also need to positively train your body. 

When you’re facing stress, maintain composure on a physical level by:

  • Limiting your caffeine intake. Coffee, or any other form of caffeine, triggers a release of adrenaline, which is the source of your fight-or-flight response. This response is followed by a crash, which will leave you feeling more on edge than before. 
  • Exercising regularly. Exercise actually lowers your levels of stress hormones and improves the overall functioning of your body. A quick workout session will also get your mind off the situation — a win-win! 
  • Getting the right amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase stress levels. When you finally catch some zzzs, your brain has a chance to recharge and sort through your memories from the day, leaving you more clear-headed when you wake up. 

5. Slow Down in Order to Calm Down

When something stressful happens, it can be tempting to react immediately (coffee or not, that’s your fight-or-flight response kicking in). However, this response sidesteps rationality, often resulting in a response that you regret later. 

If you slow down and take your time before reacting, on the other hand, you will have a chance to gather all the composure and information necessary to make an objective decision. Do this by:

  • Disconnecting. Fully remove yourself from the situation for a couple of hours, as this will give you time to process the situation and your response to it. Taking yourself off the grid will also ensure that no other stressors further complicate the situation (and yes, sometimes that means literally disconnecting your phone). 
  • Breathing. Deep breathing can relax both your body and your mind. During a stressful situation, your breathing often becomes quicker and shallower, making you feel even more out of control. Slow down your breathing by trying the 4-7-8 method: inhaling through your nose for 4 second, holding it for 7 seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for 8 seconds. 

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