Fear is a defensive emotion meant to protect you from mental, monetary, or physical harm caused by the belief that a person, thing, situation, or place is dangerous or a threat.  Fear is a warning sent to your nervous system to trigger your fight or flight response as a reaction to the threat. Your body responds with adrenaline to enable you to either fight the threat or escape from it quickly. This release of adrenaline into your body is what creates the fast heart rate and the feeling of stress.

In early times the purpose of this response was to be able to fight an adversary or to flee from a predator, this is not a useful response in modern times as we don’t normally encounter needs for physical combat much in our daily lives. Most of our battles are mental, emotional, monetary, or in our careers. The majority of the time our fear just means something is wrong, and it’s a warning signal about mild danger or even just uncertainty. Also, most modern fear comes from a flawed perspective, lack of preparation, or not being able to deal with uncertainty.

Becoming fearless is the ability to rise above being scared in situations that would make most people fearful. A pressure filled situation is one where you are under persuasion, heavy influence, or intimidation to do something.

Why do I get so nervous under pressure?

Becoming nervous under pressure can be caused by a lack of preparation, not having a plan, or moving outside your comfort zone.

If you have practiced what you will do in a specific situation over and over then you will not feel as nervous when it’s time to execute. Athletes and traders even practice all the alternate situations and what to do when something goes wrong and the unexpected happens. Preparation is a big cure for much of the nervousness of execution as you are ready, and being ready dials not fears.

A plan of action gives you a map of what you will do and removes a lot of the uncertainty from situations. If you know what you’re going to do then all you have to be ready for is execution of your plan and reacting to the feedback of the results of your planned actions. Having a plan removes a lot of the pressure from situations as you know what you’re going to do beforehand. 

Nervousness and pressure can manifest when you move outside your level or expertise and circle of competence. There is little pressure inside your ordinary life and career but to grow we must move to higher levels of performance in life. It’s natural to be nervous when we first do new things like public speaking, taking financial risks, or getting a promotion but as we do new things we dissolve the fear through experience. The best solution to fear is doing the things we fear using a plan we have prepared. There is little fear in doing something for the second time. 

How do you stay calm in a high pressure situation?

Your mental framework for how you interpret your own abilities and the importance of the situation determines how calm you can stay and how much pressure you feel in the situation itself. Calmness and pressure are subjective and are internal experiences. How calm you stay depends on your level of self-confidence and how you interpret both the probabilities of your success in the situation and the consequences of failure. Most of your feelings will originate from your imagination before the situation occurs or the outcome is even known. Managing your thoughts determines your level of calmness, your inner dialogue can calm you down or stress you out.

The level of pressure you feel in a situation is heavily correlated with your belief in yourself to achieve your desired outcome and the consequences if you fail. If you can frame each situation into only one of the next 100 situations you will be dealing with this can help lower the internal volume dial of pressure on achieving the desired outcome. You want to win of course, but if you believe you are going to win in the long-term regardless of one outcome this can lower the pressure you feel.

Things that bring calmness to high pressure situations:

  • Past successes in other areas.
  • Belief in yourself.
  • A thorough plan on what to do step by step.
  • Confidence in your ability to execute.
  • Faith in your own expertise.
  • Past experience in a similar situation.
  • Not being worried about even the worst case scenario.
  • Keeping the proper perspective.
  • No fear of losing.
  • Managing you risk of ruin in the situation.

If you have done the work of preparation and are ready with a plan in approaching the situation you can remove the fear of not knowing what to do.

If you have faith in your own abilities and know you are ready to execute you can approach a situation without fear for whether you are good enough or not.

If you have a system for achieving success then your focus will be on the implementation of your strategy and not focused on the fear of failure.

If your perspective is more broad than just one situation then you can think in terms of long-term success with this one thing being a short-term matter that is less weighted in the context of your view to long-term success.

Fear can warn you something isn’t right, you should listen to the message and fix any problems you see with risk or lack of preparation. Fear should dissipate when you’re ready to execute your plan with confidence and an edge. The more you grow in experience and expertise the less fear you will experience even in growing and trying new things. Fear is a constant companion for those seeking to achieve great things but the voice of fear becomes more manageable as it becomes a helpful messenger and stops being a roadblock.

How To Be Fearless Under Pressure
Image created by Holly Burns

By Steve Burns

After a lifelong fascination with financial markets, Steve began investing in 1993 and trading his accounts in 1995. It was love at first trade. After more than 30 successful years in the markets, Steve now dedicates his time to helping traders improve their psychology and profitability. New Trader U offers an extensive blog resource with more than 4,000 original articles, online courses, and best-selling books covering various topics.