How To Remain Even-Keeled During Stressful Situations

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Whether you are in the boardroom, on the golf course, or in conversation with a loved one, it is not helpful to work with someone unable to recognize and manage their emotions as they arise. It is even more distressing to realize you may be the person in the room who is not emotionally regulated. Fortunately, the philosophy of the even-keeled can give you the tools you need to understand what your body and brain are telling you Once you have mastered this process you are emboldened to use that information to create a solution-oriented approach to a wide variety of challenges.

In this article, we will cover the primary benefits consistent with the application of an even-keeled lifestyle and the emotional obstacles that will arise at one time or another on your path to a more mature, reasonable iteration of your personality. We will consider a variety of situations in which an even-keeled perspective can take a frustrating moment and turn it on its head. Problems are opportunities to succeed and learn how you can continue to increase the likelihood of success regardless of the details of your situation.

What Is Being Even-Keeled?

To be even-keeled is to understand your emotions as you are experiencing them while concurrently adjusting your point of view to approach any emotion-inducing obstacle with an air of Zen that maximizes your ability to deal logically with those obstacles. When you are even-keeled stress is not an impediment to success; stress is an opportunity to hone your regulatory toolkit by moving your focus from the unjust nature of less than ideal circumstances to solutions and long-term success in all areas of your life.

Why It Is Important To Practice When Stressed?

Increase Performance

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Unchecked emotions impede efficacious performance. This is as true of Fortune 500 executives as it is of high school football players. If you do not have a long-term strategy for understanding and regulating your emotions, for maintaining an even-keel, your performance will suffer. As you develop the ability to comprehend what your emotions are telling you and deal with them in a mature, productive manner, you will spend more of your time operating at the zenith of your capacity. Your teammates, co-workers, and family members will know they can count on you.

Regulate Behavior

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The legendary investor Warren Buffett is famous for encouraging everyday investors to ignore their portfolio. This maxim seems counterintuitive, but it is a great piece of advice. If you invest your money in an index fund and spring out of bed every morning to scour the paper to see how the value of your investment has faired over the last 24 hours, you will drive yourself crazy. With a few notable exceptions, the economy grows. It doesn't grow every day or even every week, but the odds are, in the years that stand between the present and your retirement the investment will increase in value.

The long view is infinitely preferable to the short. Beating yourself up over every clumsy sales pitch, mis-hit backhand, or poorly timed remark will leave you in a vortex of despair. Those on the even-keel focus on long-term success, not short-term missteps. So long as your sales pitches, backhands, jokes, or what have you improve over time there is no sense in obsessive self-criticism; you will succeed in eroding your confidence and nothing more.

Improve Interpersonal Relationships

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The practice of the even-keel will improve working relationships with teammates, co-workers, and loved ones. By dealing with emotionally loaded situations with a clear head and a sense of maturity, you avoid provoking additional stress in those around you and make yourself level-headed type in any team or family who would look to for leadership in a time of crisis. No one wants to be stuck navigating murky waters with someone whose emotions rule their attitude and their actions. You can avoid being that person, and you can help those who are by maintaining your own even-keel.


It is worth considering how an even-keeled perspective interacts with some of the most common emotions that deter progress at work, in competition, or in life. Five of the most common emotions that hamper progress in any situation is:


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When wrestling with a sense of disappointment, it can be tempting to succumb to despair. If you have called a meeting, you feel is integral to your organization's success on a certain project and that meeting is canceled for any number of innocuous reasons, you will undoubtedly be tempted to let your feelings of disappointment dampen your productivity.

A propagator of the even-keel embraces the unexpected. Someone canceled your meeting due to unforeseen circumstances; fine, now you have a free afternoon to hone your presentation for a rescheduled date, catch up on another project, or knock off early and catch a matinee.


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We are frequently hypersensitive to perceived sleights from co-workers, family members, and friends. It is essential to recall disrespect was most likely not the intention of whoever marginalized your perspective or actions, but even if the insult was deliberate, you could counteract negativity with positive language. If a co-worker makes a disparaging remark, stay on the even-keel and control the situation with your language.

From the time we are children our actions are reinforced or dis-incentivized through praise and punishment. By describing your point of view with a positive language, you can activate this reward system in yourself and others thereby introducing an emotional incentive for a productive discussion on both sides of the disagreement.


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Problems frequently compound one another and introduce a crippling level of anxiety. For instance, you are driving to work you spill your coffee all over your best suit, while muttering profanities and wiping away the residue you cause a fender bender with the car in front of you, after pulling over you discover your insurance information has wandered out of your glove compartment. Naturally, you feel entitled to lament your rotten luck. Resist that urge. An even-keel requires problem-solving not lamentation. Pull your insurance information up on your phone, think of an ice-breaking joke about the coffee stain on your pants, give your nephew's fledging auto body repair shop some much-needed business, just don't feel sorry for yourself.


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One of the most common feelings amongst those unfamiliar with the even-keel is defeatism. Once one thing has gone wrong, it is easy to internalize the failure and assume the trend will hold: not so. You are on the golf course, locked in competition when you hit a drive that slices so dramatically it comes to rest on an adjacent fairway from where you cannot see the green you need to hit, much less the flagstick. Your feelings of defeat are not a product of your horrible drive; they are a product of your fear you will embarrass yourself going forward.

You must stay in the present. Sure the situation is not ideal, but you are in a fair way. It's a blind shot, but you've played this course before; you know where to aim. Furthermore, when you put this approach anywhere in the neighborhood of the green, your companions will be impressed you have risen to the occasion and made it work.


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There are few predicaments more frustrating than being given a full plate only to have seemingly insensitive supervisors add to the pile. You are whittling away at a report your supervisor said must be in by the end of the day when your boss tells you he or she needs you to run to the post office and drop a few things off.

The inconvenience may seem inconsiderate but take the opportunity to re-frame your description of the situation. You haven't been burdened by a cumbersome new task; you have been given a chance to take a mobile karaoke break with your favorite Celine Dion CD, leaving you refreshed and capable upon your return to the office.

A Brief Note On Genetic Factors

All our brains operate differently. For some, the even-keel will come naturally while for others it will be a laborious process to maintain a Zen composure. This is based on genetic factors that determine the dominant side of each individual's brain; a dichotomy over which we have no control. Regardless of how your brain works, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success.

Foremost, control your breathing. By spending a few minutes every day consciously controlling your breathing, you increase your ability to regulate your heart rate and deal logically with whichever emotions you may experience over the course of the day, week, month, etc. Additionally, institute a routine that includes recreation and does not deviate unduly. By establishing a consistent baseline, you can maximize your ability to identify emotions and ensure they do not interfere with your even-keel.


When you are even-keeled, you are approaching the problems in your life with a placidity born of a nuanced understanding of your emotions which enables you to take control of internal factors that compromise your problem-solving skills while accepting external factors outside of your control. This results in the most effective version of yourself taking control whenever and wherever circumstance requires you to rise to the occasion. The deployment of an even-keeled approach to life's tribulations maximizes performance through emotional awareness and regulation.

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