Daily Thoughts

March 13, 2017
Dealing With Pressure

Photo by Guy Bowden/Unsplash


“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.” – Mark Messier


You know the feeling right away when pressure builds up. Your chest feels tight and you can’t breathe. Your thoughts and your heart may be racing. You get a knot in the pit of your stomach. You may even feel a headache or migraine coming on. Not only that but you also start clipping your words, speaking in escalating tones to get your point across or vent your frustration, or becoming inordinately quiet because you can’t find the right words to say or don’t want to say anything. Everyone experiences pressure. And everyone can benefit from more effective ways to deal with it.

What most people don’t realize is that they heap an enormous amount of pressure on themselves. Others aren’t responsible for this burdensome load – we are. If we didn’t pile it on repeatedly we’d probably feel less constricted, miserable and unfulfilled. It’s just that we have such high expectations for ourselves or constantly put ourselves in situations where we’re bound to get in over our heads – and feel the pressure to succeed despite knowing we can’t.

Why not reduce some of that burden? Take a few items off the to-do list and concentrate on doing those that have some reasonable likelihood of getting done with a focused effort? That way, at least something productive will result that you can feel good about. It’s also true that several small tasks completed will add up to a feeling of accomplishment just as much as putting the finishing touches on a large and/or complicated or complex task, project, undertaking, effort or pursuit.

Sometimes, though, we need a little self-prodding to overcome procrastination and get down to business. In this respect, a small amount of self-induced pressure is a good thing – if we do something about it and don’t allow the pressure to carry over day after day without tending to the job we need to do.

How do you know when pressure is just enough and not too much? Pressure is OK when it doesn’t cause you to lose sleep, get sick to your stomach, to lash out at others, to try to cope with self-destructive behavior like drinking too much, gambling, doing drugs or some other addictive-leaning activity. If you recognize that you are the one applying the pressure and know that it’s for a limited-duration, short-term task or project, it might be just fine.

Where you don’t want to land is in a state of perpetual pressure. That’s highly detrimental to your overall physical, emotional and psychological well-being. When pressure builds up, take some time to release some of it. Go for a walk outside. Have coffee with a friend. Take in a movie or read a good book. Get some extra sleep. Indulge in a massage. Engage in vigorous physical exercise. These are all healthy ways to release unwanted pressure and to feel reinvigorated and refreshed afterward.


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