“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.
Stop piling it on yourself.
What most people don’t realize is that they heap an enormous amount of pressure on themselves. Yet, here’s a crucial point: 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 grand expectations for ourselves or constantly put ourselves in situations where we’re bound to get in over our heads, and consequently feel the pressure to succeed despite knowing we can’t.
Reduce the self-imposed burden of too much to do.
Why not reduce some of that burden? Take a few items off the massive to-do list and concentrate on doing those that have some reasonable likelihood of getting done with a focused and concerted effort. That way, at least something productive will result that you can feel good about. It’s also true that a few 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.
Know when it’s time to get busy.
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. That is, 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.
Learn to recognize how much pressure you’re comfortable with.
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 behaviors or 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. Note the emphasis on the caveat. It might be fine, or it might not be. Self-evaluation during the activity or pursuit is an effective way to keep tabs on your comfort level with the pressure you feel.
Guard against always-present pressure.
Where you don’t want to land is in a state of perpetual pressure, especially when you’ve pressured yourself to be super-productive in a work or home situation. That’s highly detrimental to your overall physical, emotional and psychological well-being. When pressure builds up, you must take some time to release some of it.
- Go for a walk outside.
- Have coffee with a friend.
- Take in a movie.
- Read an enjoyable book.
- Get some extra sleep.
- Indulge in a massage.
- Engage in vigorous physical exercise.
- Stimulate your mind with challenging mental gymnastics – work a crossword puzzle, play a game of Trivial Pursuit with family or friends.
- Get in the practice of journaling.
- Meditate, do yoga, deep breathing exercises.
- Enrich your spirituality through prayer, thinking about your Higher Power, going to a religious institution.
- Talk it over with your trusted allies, loving spouse or family members, friends, a therapist.
These are all healthy ways to release unwanted pressure and to feel reinvigorated and refreshed afterward. Just remember that it isn’t the technique you use to help eliminate pressure, but that you do employ steps you’ve found effective in the past. In other words, instead of suffering with the self-imposed or other-imposed pressure, do something proactive to allow it to dissipate.