I have traveled the world competing for the United States in figure skating competitions, so I know a thing or two about nerves. In fact, the nerves skaters feel when performing are not too different from those during tough interviews, important presentations, or uncomfortable conversations with co-workers and bosses. If you find yourself in a high-pressure situation where the stakes are high, try these tips to help you exude grace and poise.
1. Don’t let them see you sweat!
No one wants to look scared or weak in front of an audience, even if you’re feeling it on the inside. I’ve made plenty of embarrassing mistakes in front of important people, but I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world. Instead of fleeing from those situations, I now see them as a chance to show how graceful and composed I can be under pressure.
If you’re in the middle of presenting and feel like you’re either rushing through your material or losing all focus, pause for a moment. Take a step back mentally, breathe, and slow down. By actively invoking feelings of calm and control, you will eventually exude confidence.
2. Knowing your self-worth is essential.
Just like in figure skating, those who receive the highest scores are not always the ones with the best technique. Instead, they are usually the ones who sold their performance to the audience and conveyed that they deserved to win. Similarly, if you go into a job interview doubting your abilities compared to other applicants, a lack of confidence will show through and lessen your chances of being hired.
It’s crucial that you try not to worry about what you lack, and instead focus on your accomplishments, skills, and all the reasons why you’re great for the job. The more positive self-talk you engage in, the stronger your belief in yourself will become. That increased belief will also help you recover from disappointment more easily, which will eventually lead to greater success overall.
3. No matter how small it seems, practice makes perfect.
Proper preparation is key to success in any high-pressure situation, whether it be an important work presentation or athletic performance. By writing out potential questions beforehand, running through a practice proposal with a friend, or studying relevant literature, you can better train your mind and body to react under pressure. The more you practice, the easier it will become and the more confident you’ll feel about your abilities.
4. Power up and recharge.
Eating nutritiously and getting enough rest is key for people in all walks of life, from athletes to young professionals. If you want to be able to handle the hectic times at work with a clear head, it’s important that you take care of yourself both mentally and physically. I discovered that making small changes was more manageable than trying to overhaul my entire lifestyle overnight, and these little tweaks had a big impact on my energy levels and ability to cope with stressful situations.
5. Focus on the excitement.
When the outcome of a competition is very important to you, it’s easy to feel anxious and lose the focus and control that you need to perform your best. The key is in how you perceive things; if you see adrenaline as a positive boost instead of a hindrance, then you will be able to use those bursts of energy to your advantage rather than letting them psych you out.
6. Don’t worry about stuff you can’t do anything about.
No matter what we do, obstacles will always come up: our luggage might not arrive after an international flight, competitors can be hostile, and we might get sick on the day of competition. Instead of getting caught off guard, let’s be prepared for it. When things don’t go according to plan, let’s be flexible and roll with the punches as best as we can. If anything, see adversity as an opportunity to grow stronger and feel excited about thriving even under less than ideal conditions—you will feel a much greater sense of achievement!
What tips do you have for staying calm under pressure? Let us know in the comments below!
Ask Levo Mentor Fran Hauser, President, Digital at Time Inc. Style & Entertainment Group, how she handles high pressure situations.