Hisham Tawfiq has been in plenty of high-stakes, high-stress situations. He's a former Marine, firefighter and state corrections officer. While he now spends most of his time on-set as an actor for the Emmy Award-winning TV series "The Blacklist," Tawfiq still works on one thing: thriving under pressure.
"I still work with my nerves, relaxing, calming down and just being my authentic self with whatever I do," Tawfiq tells CNBC Make It.
To overcome his anxiety, Tawfiq depends on three mental hacks he first learned in acting school. These simple strategies, he says, can help anyone succeed under pressure.
Choose your clothing carefully — and not just for fit.
A fabric's texture can calm you, says Tawfiq. When just starting out, an acting coach saw Tawfiq's nervousness and asked him to wear fabric that comforted him. The trick worked and to this day, Tawfiq wears corduroy pants to auditions and other events when he needs to be focused and calm.
Color can also play an important role. "There are certain colors I can wear and I just feel extremely powerful," says Tawfiq, who loves army green.
But don't discount your favorite sweater, pants or shoes. Anything that comforts you will help you feel at ease in a difficult situation, he says. "All of those things add to how you feel and how you feel comes into the room and affects your work."
Tawfiq finds that scents like oak and vanilla help ease his nervousness. Experts agree that these fragrances and others have the power to quell anxiety.
In fact, some alternative medicine practitioners swear by the power of certain fragrances to sharpen focus and help with decision making. Peppermint, for example, can help you think clearly while research has shown that the scent of lavender or rosemary can boost your memory and performance.
In acting school, Tawfiq learned to relax by pretending he was under less pressure than he was.
The strategy worked. When he didn't put pressure on himself at casting calls, he performed better. Eventually he'd snag the roles that became the stepping stones for his career.
While preparation is key for staying calm, it's important not to overthink things and get so "nervous you fall apart," says Tawfiq.
When you finally say "screw this" and go in with an indifferent, but confident attitude, you'll be a lot calmer, he explains.
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Disclaimer: "The Blacklist" is produced by CNBC-parent company NBC Universal.