We all have stressful periods in our lives - whether that’s through work, family or relationships.

And when you’re under a lot of pressure, it can be hard to stay calm and react sensibly.

One person who knows a thing or two about doing so, however, is Ben Murphy, former team leader of the Red Arrows and competitor in the Red Bull Air Race, which took place in Budapest last weekend.

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We flew out to Budapest to meet Murphy, take a spin in his plane and learn his secrets for keeping cool under pressure.

Ben Murphy

After 16 years in the RAF, 41-year-old Murphy decided to move into aerobatic flights for a new challenge.

High speeds, obstacles and 10G forces mean flying the plane can be incredibly dangerous, and Murphy says the Red Bull Air Race is his “ultimate flying challenge.”

But when the risks are so great and the pressure to perform so high, how does he stay calm? Well, he just sits on his hands. Metaphorically at least.

“The best piece of advice that we got through training is that if something goes wrong, take a deep breath and don’t respond instantly,” Murphy explained to The Independent

“We used to call it sitting on your hands. Avoid the temptation to start pulling levers. Take a couple of seconds and absorb all the information you have coming to you. 

“That one or two seconds gives your brain the time to process what’s going on and you’re about 90 per cent more likely to take the right course of action and make the right decisions after that than if you just dive straight in and do it instinctively.”

The Red Bull Air Race in Budapest last weekend

And it’s advice that anyone can apply in their lives.

With just a few minutes to practise on the course before each race, there’s a lot of pressure on Murphy. And things have gone wrong before. 

“Everybody at this level has had a situation where they’ve been properly tested,” he explains. “I had it in a harrier where we had what’s known as a bird strike - we flew through a lot of birds, they hit the aeroplane, and when you’re doing 480mph a seagull does a lot of damage. 

“The birds destroyed the glass canopy over the top of us, they went down the engine and damaged the wings. The plane essentially turned into a 480mph cabriolet! It was windy and noisy but we just went through the drills, managed the damaged aircraft and brought the plane down. 

“It was only when we thought about it afterwards that we realised what had actually just happened and that we’d done something really quite complicated.”

And even if nothing goes wrong, taking part in an aerobatic flight is an experience that’ll give anyone a rush, as I found out when I took a flight in Murphy's plane.

What it's like to fly in a stunt plane for the Red Bull Air Race

So whilst not everyone manages to control their foul mouth in extreme situations, Murphy says he’s always been calm: “I like to think I’ve always been a very calm person. It’s a prerequisite for something like this and certainly in my military flying days - performing under pressure is exactly what they’re looking for.”

Time to practise sitting on my hands (and keeping my mouth shut).

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