A little bit of stress is healthy and energizing, but too much can have adverse effects on your health. Exercise has long been known as one of the best ways to learn how to focus under pressure. Meditation and listening to music are other methods of keeping calm.
— Usain St. Leo Bolt (@usainbolt) November 22, 2017
Super-athletes like Usain Bolt have given us numerous examples in which they have displayed the ability to stay calm and focused under extreme circumstances. Athletes possess an exceptional ability to concentrate on the tedious, repetitive tasks on their way to their ultimate objective. In effect, they draw from their mental toughness to overcome seemingly insurmountable tasks.
The first element in the focus equation is to have a healthy body. Feeding your body the right things at the right time is important. For example, too much sugar too early in the day may lead to a sugar crash and diminished focus; the aim should be to ingest enough protein to avoid this.
Another key element is having a positive outlook by using positive language while visualizing the end game. Over time, you learn to evaluate your calming strategies and make corrections where necessary. And where possible, design a training plan that simulates performance conditions.
Our bodies go into the “fight or flight” mode when facing a really challenging or even dangerous situation. And when stress hormones take over our bodies, too much pressure can be detrimental to the nervous system. Emulating athletes, who are especially capable of training themselves to relax, is a great way to prevent this.
Proper breathing practices can regulate the level of cortisol in the body and allow for controlling negative emotions. Learning how to improve your vagal tone is also helpful in reducing stress. The vagus nerve is the main nerve involved in soothing nervous pathways. It stretches from the brainstem right down into the heart and other major organs; it’s also possibly the origin of terms like “he lost his nerve.” Once this vagus nerve is toned through additional methods such as meditation, exercise, positive thinking and increasing omega-3 consumption in the form of fish and other foods, it can calm down the whole system.
Although coffee and other energy drinks are used for a quick adrenaline burst, a bottle of water is healthier for the body and worth considering. Interestingly, fear of failure can also have some bearing on an athletes’ focus, either stimulating or hindering their performance. This fear can take many forms: fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of the embarrassment of losing, etc.
Never doubt the outcome of your task; when this happens, you set yourself up for panic and failure. Taking a cue from athletes, try to get in the “zone” by blocking out everything around them and focusing on the task at hand.
Many high achievers from all spheres learn grace under pressure. They have honed a mental preparedness they draw on when the circumstances call for it. In doing so, improving your health allows self-control and memory to be increased, which is an important tool to have when dealing with exceptional situations. Remember, understanding the body and utilizing the some of the more popular life hacks can control your ability to focus and keep your cool in stressful situations.