How do Special Forces operatives stay calm under pressure?

9 November

We have a process in the Special Forces for when things get noisy (our term for when bullets begin to fly): breathe, recalibrate, deliver. It works in pretty much any stress scenario, military or civilian, such as when we’re under pressure to make a decision at work, or if we’re in a situation that’s rapidly spiralling out of control.

Firstly, we take in two deep, slow breaths. This lowers the cortisol levels in the brain, increases blood flow, and reduces stress in the nervous system. This helps us in two ways. Firstly, it calms our mood. Secondly it mentally slows down a situation that might be running away from us.

Having edged away from psychological breakpoint we then need to recalibrate. If you were to Google the word ‘breakpoint’ it would say, 'an intentional stopping or pausing place in a computer program, put in for debugging purposes.’ In stress terms, we need to debug, so after those two breaths, we assess how best to get out of a situation. We recalibrate. We formulate a plan, an escape route, or a different form of attack. Then we deliver to the best of our ability.

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