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5 steps to staying calm under pressureSometimes you’ve got to sell yourself. Whether you’re trying to land a new job or flirt with a hot guy, here are a few tips for keeping your cool under pressure so you don’t look like an idiot.

Nervous? Here’s what’s happening.

It’s not easy to act natural when you’re nervous. Stress produces an automatic reaction that impacts everything from your heartbeat to your hand gestures.

In response to stress, the body releases three major hormones: Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.

These chemicals cause your heart rate to increase, your blood pressure to rise, and your breath to quicken.

Known as flight-or-fight, this response is a survival mechanism that prepares the body to deal with danger.

The reaction is triggered whether the danger is physical or psychological. That’s why it’s so hard to be cool around your crush or an overbearing boss.

These behaviors signal anxiety.

Everyone’s body language changes in response to stress. Maybe your mind goes blank. I babble incoherently. Other common nervous reactions include:

  • Fidgeting.
  • Talking too fast.
  • Increased use of filler words such as “like” and “um.”
  • Self-soothing behaviors like rubbing the back of your neck or playing with an earring.
  • Jerky or wild body movements (like when you can’t figure out what to do with your hands, so you put them on your hips, then rub the back of your neck, then rub your earlobe).

Before you can control your reaction to stress, you must be able to identify when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

So next time you’re stressed, pay attention to your speech and body language. Some of these behaviors probably help you deal with anxiety, but they make you look as nervous as you feel.

How to regain your confidence

If a conversation goes off track, here are a few techniques you can use to regain your confidence, according to Jim McCormick and Maryann Karinch in Body Language Sales Secrets.

  1. Slow your breathing. Inhale and exhale to the count of three.
  2. Walk Away. Find an excuse to walk across the room. For example, grab a cup of water or look out the window and complement the view.
  3. Relax your muscles. When you’re stressed, the muscles in your face and body tense. If you can’t walk away for a few moments, relax your face muscles by smiling. Ease the tension in your body by using good posture. Make sure to drop your shoulders and stand or sit up straight.
  4. Get Analytical. Instead of focusing on yourself, study the other person. What is their body language telling you? Do you see any signs of anxiety? Are they doing anything that’s triggering your stress response?
  5. Reroute the conversation. Most people love talking about themselves. If you’re talking too much or can’t think of anything to say, ask a question that requires more than a yes or no answer. Also consider providing a genuine complement. We like people who like us.

Make it a game.

If you want to get better at stressful situations, try to make it a game. When you’re prepping for a stressful situation, choose one of your usual anxious behaviors and commit to avoiding it:

  • Stand or sit still.
  • Focus on something or someone else in the room instead of your own anxious thoughts.
  • Ask questions and really listen to the answers.

How do you boost your confidence during stressful situations? Let me know in the comments.

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About Penelope Strange