Keeping Calm Under Pressure

by Chinwe Oniah

by Chinwe Oniah

As career-driven women, we often find ourselves in high-pressure situations. Whether it’s hitting a deadline or making sure your projects pan out, the stress of being under pressure is very real, and it can be all too easy to lose your cool in these situations. Instead of having a meltdown, here are a few tips to help you keep calm under pressure.


When we feel stressed out, we tend to neglect some of the most basic practices that are beneficial to our well-being, such as breathing. Stress is known to physically cause shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate. Take a minute to chill out. Fixating on the negatives of a situation or getting worked up about what hasn’t gone well is not helpful when working in a high-pressure situation. Take a deep breath. As it turns out, deep breathing is not only relaxing, it's been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, and the immune system. Sometimes all it takes to regain composure is a good, long deep breath or a quick meditation session.

There are tons of great resources online that can help enable you to take a quick break from the stresses of daily life. An app we like to use is Breathe2Relax, which acts as a portable stress management tool and provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body. The app not only gives tips and practice exercises, but also helps users learn diaphragmatic breathing, a stress management technique. You can also find a multitude of instructional videos online that help you quickly tune in and chill out. Below is an awesome video that teaches helpful breathing techniques to help you zen out.



Figure out what needs to be handled in a given situation, and put together a plan of action. It’s always helpful to plan your day out and set timelines for tasks that need to be completed. Prioritize tasks and focus on those that you can do, and delegate smaller tasks to others. Pick up a planner or create your own bullet journal that allows you to customize your schedule and visualize your progress. Check out this quick tutorial for starting your own bullet journal:



Chances are that you work with a team of people. When collaborating on a project, it’s important to maintain constant and clear communication with your teammates. Make sure to update them on your progress, voice your concerns, and be transparent about any potential obstacles you may encounter along the way. The moment you feel that something isn’t working, let everyone involved know. Together, you and your team can come up with a plan to get through sticky situations. If you don't think you can solve a problem by yourself, don’t try to. It’s always OK to ask for help.


Stay Focused

Let’s face it: it is so easy to get distracted. I even got distracted writing this article! The constant stream of stimuli on our laptops, mobile devices and social media platforms have made it incredibly challenging to keep our focus and generally get sh*t done. All day and night, we’re bombarded with so many messages, alerts and notifications that even when we want to focus, it’s nearly impossible. And when we’re tempted to procrastinate, diversions are only a click away.

The solution: Control the digital overload rather than letting it control you. Find a quiet place, put your phone on airplane mode and silence those notifications. Find or create a good playlist that will put you in the mood to be productive. Take planned breaks from your work, but instead of turning to Twitter or Instagram, try to engage in more energy-enhancing activities. The more focus you have on your work, that faster it will get done. And don’t fret, the latest celebrity Twitter feud will still be there when you’re done. Keep your eyes on the prize!  

An app we love is Forest App, a great tool for helping you stay focused on the task at hand. It works like this: You first plant a seed in the app. You’ll then notice that the seed gradually starts growing into a tree. However, if you can’t resist the temptation and leave the app to check Facebook or play a game, your tree will start withering away. With this approach, the sense of achievement and responsibility drives users to stay away from their phones with no pain. In addition to growing a virtual forest by not fiddling with their phones during designated times they set, users also earn virtual currency to purchase real trees. Give it a try!


Reward Yourself

When working in a stressful situation, it’s easy to forget to reward yourself for the progress that you’ve made. People do better work when they’re happy and motivated. When you set goals and reward yourself for achieving them, not only will you complete your work faster, but you’ll feel more accomplished and gain more confidence in your abilities. Be sure to take a break every now and then and treat yourself! You’ll come back to your work with new energy and a clearer mind.

And speaking of accomplishments, be sure to acknowledge them. Small wins are just as important as the big wins. You’ve made it this far, so you must be doing something right. Did you secure that interview? Acknowledge that! Did you finish that project? Celebrate that! Were you on time to work or school today? Revel in that! Find confidence in those good moments, and use that momentum and positivity to take on whatever is coming your way.


Let it Go

Sometimes things don't go your way and THAT’S OK. If you manage your expectations and are prepared for the possibility that things may not go as planned, you are prepared to handle failure. Failure is a part of life. For every success we experience, there are moments where we just miss the mark. Accept that you did your best and walk away with your head held high. When things don’t go well, take it as a learning experience and use that moment to reflect and devise a plan that will help you avoid running into similar problems in the future. When taking on your next project, you’ll be that much more prepared. Focus on your strengths and leverage them when you encounter your next challenge.